Turtles Can Fly
Autumn 2005 Edge series
Sunday, December 4, 2005 at 4:00pm
Sunday, December 4, 2005 at 7:00pm
Rated NR ·
Bahman Ghobadi’s courageous, moving films chronicle life at the shifting national borders in the Middle East. His celebrated A Time for Drunken Horses and Marooned in Iraq considered the precarious line dividing Iran and Iraq and the extraordinary lengths to which people there go to survive. In Turtles Can Fly, an Official Selection at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival, he turns to parched, mountainous Kurdistan on the Turkish-Iraqi border immediately before the recent American invasion.
Moving from town to town, fixing the electronics that keep these remote villages connected to the outside world, the vivacious Kak Satellite is a respected community leader even though he is only thirteen years old. He is also a father figure to the local children, most of whom are orphans maimed by land mines. Ironically, these same children spend their days removing unexploded ordinance from nearby fields to sell back to American forces for meagre wages.
Just as Kak convinces the village chiefs to buy a satellite dish, a soft-spoken yet strong-willed armless boy who is a new arrival in town begins to challenge his authority. Kak’s situation becomes more complicated when he falls for the boy’s sister, who is unable to deal with the horrors she has endured. Her story, the saddest of all, reminds us of the price the young pay in war-torn regions.
Turtles Can Fly is told in luminous yet restrained tones, shuttling between contemplative, epic sweeps of this extraordinarily beautiful area and the intimate realities of the kids’ day-to-day lives. Yet Ghobadi turns an otherwise grim reality into a stirring triumph of the human spirit; these children are joyously alive, full of hope and self-confidence, despite their many hardships. During wartime, civilians are too often reduced to pawns; this film may be Ghobadi’s best argument yet to support his insistent belief that every life counts.