Review: Turtles Can Fly-Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004)


Directed by: Bahman Ghobadi | 98 minutes | drama, war | Actors: Soran Ebrahim, Avaz Latif, Saddam Hossein Feysal, Hiresh Feysal Rahman, Abdol Rahman Karim, Ajil Zibari

It seems such a peaceful scene: a green, sloping landscape with boys and girls picking strawberries. The sun is shining brightly, the children work slowly and with concentration, kneeling above the grass with their baskets on their backs. A boy who is missing both arms simply plucks with his mouth. It’s just not strawberries that are picked here, but landmines.

The international co-production ‘Turtles Can Fly’ impressively shows the consequences of a war. The film is set in a Kurdish refugee camp where displaced children try to lead a somewhat normal life. On the one hand, we see the real survivors, such as Satelliet, a 13-year-old roller who does all kinds of odd jobs with his even younger helpers. Should antennas be installed, mines cleared or weapons bought, satellite can take care of it.

Opposite to this are the physically and mentally mutilated, such as Hengov, a clairvoyant boy who is missing both arms. He forms an alternative family with his sister Agrin and their little brother. The boy is blind and the sister can no longer take life. The reason for this will become apparent later in the film. Agrin’s aversion to the little boy is then also explained, who turns out not to be her brother.

Director Ghobadi has asked for most of the roles children from the Kurdish camps. This explains the authentic appearance and naturalness with which the young actors play. Avaz Latif in particular makes a great impression as the traumatized Agrin. The old girl’s deadly tired look with which the young girl looks out into the world says more about the horrors of war than any explicit scene.

Not only the acting is great, the visuals are also beautiful, the story is fascinating and there is even room for a little humor. But what makes ‘Turtles Can Fly’ a truly wonderful film is the way Ghobadi tells his story. Without allegations against Iraq, Turkey or America and without sentimentalism, the director has made a poignant anti-war film. By fully focusing on the young camp inmates, he shows the deepest wounds a war can leave. The children never become mere victims and that only makes their fate more poignant.

Beautiful monument to all the little strawberry pickers of this world.

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