Feature / Movie Review

Turtles Can Fly- Ghobadi’s Masterpiece

I have seen a lot of post-war movies…A lot of children films and a few of of Iranian movies. But haven’t seen something like “Turtles Can Fly“. Directed by Bahman Ghobadi, Turtles Can Fly is a story of few children in a small Iraqi village where a small industrious boy names “Satellite” with his group of small children collect land mines & sell it to the black market. The movie is set in Post Saddam Hussain era. Satellite falls for an orphan  girl traveling with her disabled brother who appears to have the gift of clairvoyance. The siblings care for a toddler, whose connection to the pair is discovered as harsh truths are revealed.

Ghobadi has brilliantly shown issues from a view point of children who live it everyday, who observe it everyday and who is ready to tell the tale to the world. The filmmakers have used children brilliantly to tell the tragedy which helps them tell the tale more effectively. The film has a beautiful storyline with real performances. And the children perform everything with a  charm. Cinematography is serene and breathtaking with the handheld cameras. Scenes are simple yet moving. there is a scene when Satellite installs a giant satellite dish so the town can watch FOX News for war updates. The movie has hidden messages in it. Even the scene when the elders express embarrassment & disgust after catching a glimpse of prohibited channels such as MTV. It shows the under reported world of Kurdish lifestyle.

In his director’s statement, Ghobadi explains what he tried to obtain with this movie: “Just as the world TV networks were announcing the end of the war, I began to make a film whose leading stars were neither Bush, nor Saddam, nor any other dictators. Those people had been the media stars. Nobody mentioned the Iraqi people. There hadn’t been a single shot of the Iraqis. They were mere extras.” And he does that here beautifully. It’s a satire which is dark,  powerful & moving.  Right from the opening scene where we watch the young girl walk in bare feet to the razor blade edge of the cliff hoping she does not fall. The wind moans in our ears, dusty pebbles shift under her apprehensive steps, and her dark eyes search the hollow space behind her. She returns her gaze to the desolate canyon before her, and draws her feet to the precipice sharpened with snow. And no, she does not fall into the careening abyss. She jumps. The director shows in the beginning that nothing in this movie will be uplifting.

The movie is all about choices. Everybody makes them accordingly. Poor kids have nothing to do, nowhere to go, they make a choice of selling land-mines rather than living in misery. Ghobadi make a choice of which we are shown in the beginning & also in the end. Nothing about the film is pretty. But still it will move you. Watch this for a change. A change from every day crap and brainless movies. Watch this and try understanding the underlying meaning Gobadi wants to convey.   A movie as painful but equally beautiful it can be.

Rating- 5 Out of 5

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One thought on “Turtles Can Fly- Ghobadi’s Masterpiece

  1. The trauma of war has been an issue much covered in cinema, but in this film, we are shown the impact that it has on those who are most innocent of all- the children. War from an innocent perspective; yet not a dark comedy- this film has a lot to offer. This also reveals another aspect of this film- the adults in the film are shown as the scared lot. They are always shown hiding, squeaking in their houses; following orthodox practices. It leaves you in a land where war can be smelled, where destruction is not a new addition to the inhabitant’s menu. The adults being dormant, while the kids are enthusiastic is totally justified.

    Prior to this, Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful and a selected handful unforgettable films had also fearlessly covered this nightmarish, inhumane aspect of war. This film hits hard enough to be called a masterpiece. After these 1 hr 37 minutes of brainwash, I stared blankly at the screen for fifteen minutes, amidst a state of pure, and surprisingly prolonged, emotional helplessness. I felt like loosing something… I felt the pain of lost innocence.

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