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Simple, passionate and beautiful
ollie50123 November 2003
Bacheha-Ye aseman (Children of Heaven)

It was with some trepidation that I popped this DVD into the player - it was, after all, my first venture into Iranian cinema, so I was a little unsure what to expect. I am used to, and for the most part, enjoy foreign films. They open up an incredible world of cinema that one would otherwise miss. After five minutes, it was fairly evident that this film was something a bit special. The story is simple. While at market shopping, Ali loses his sisters school shoes. After desperately trying in vain to find them, he decides that he and his sister will share his sneakers, meeting her after to school each day to recover them from her, in order to get to school himself. That is pretty much a synopsis of the entire movie. It doesn't end there however...

This film is played with such beauty and innocence; it is a true pleasure to watch. Mohammad Amir Naji plays Ali with such incredible depth and passion, one is completely drawn into his plight. From the start of the film, we see the relationship between brother and sister, played with equal warmth by Bahare Seddiqi, strained as he explains how he lost her shoes. The sorrow on Ali's face, and Zahra's tears at the news, are truly heartbreaking to watch. The expressions on the faces of the children are so genuine, it is clear that spending a cinematic hour and half will be a pleasure, albeit not an easy one.

We see Ali and his Father looking for work as gardeners. From the outset it is clear that Ali's Father is strict, but it is also evident he loves his son dearly, and the simple exchange of smiles as they find their first job is heart-warming, and totally believable. Cycling through the city, it is very striking that there is a clear division between rich and poor. We are watching a boy, to afraid to tell his father of the loss of a pair of shoes, riding through streets with billboards advertising cell phones, into rural areas where houses with swimming pools, ornate architecture and luxury are rife.

There is so much in Western civilisation that we take for granted. What to us are simple daily belongings to others is pure decadence. Aside from anything else, this film is a window into a world so many of us do not understand. Simple things bring Ali pleasure, blowing bubbles, swinging on swings with his new found friend, the smiles and laughter of the children is absorbing.

Later in the film we see Ali enter a race in order to win a pair of brand new sneakers for his sister. To win them, he must come third. Again we see the division of wealth, as Ali races through the streets, the thoughts and images of his sister swirling in his head, and on screen, while at the same time, parents of other children film the race on camcorders, all the time Ali running, fighting for the shoes he needs so desperately.

The film is directed perfectly, and the credit for this goes to Majid Majidi, whose films have won acclaim worldwide. There are no special effects, no luxurious settings. There are times when the film feels like a documentary in the direction, and that works in its favour. This film would make an excellent introduction into the world of foreign cinema. Throughout the movie, the expressions and emotions displayed by the children speak far louder than any dialogue ever could.

The film is not dialogue intensive, and one could easily watch the film, and understand the story, even without the aid of subtitles. This film was nominated for an Academy Award, and it not difficult to see why. Ignoring for a moment the subtitles and language barriers, since they are not overly crucial to the film, this is a story of true innocence, and tugs hard at the heartstrings, sometimes to breaking point. The portrayal of the children is gentle, warm and absolutely believable, and one cannot help but be drawn into this tale, as it gently unwinds. It is sometimes tough to watch the emotions played out, but ultimately, worth every second.

Missing this film, particularly if simply put off by the fact it is foreign language, would a sad deprivation of the senses and the heart. It is not just a film, it is an experience, and one that is completely passionate, and totally unforgettable.

I truly cannot recommend this highly enough. It is widely available on DVD or VHS - rent it, borrow it or buy it - you will be glad that you did!

Reviewed by Ollie
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a work of art
Roland E. Zwick4 January 2000
The wonderful Iranian film "Children of Heaven" and its companion piece, "The White Balloon", remind one of those great Czechoslovakian films of the 1960's ("The Shop on Main Street," "Loves of a Blonde," etc.) in that they achieve their artistry by providing keenly observed glimpses into the minutiae of everyday life. They also help to humanize a culture often regarded as alien and even incomprehensible to western eyes. Above all, this magnificent film reminds us that real drama comes not in the form of over-plotted special effects-laden extravaganzas, but from films that examine the universal simplicities of life as we all know it. When it is distilled through the eyes of a poet - this is when art is achieved.

"Children of Heaven" has its roots planted firmly in the neorealist tradition. Its simple story echoes not merely the earlier "The White Balloon" but the original Italian classic, "The Bicycle Thief." In this film, young Ali accidentally loses his sister's recently mended shoes; out of this tale of utmost simplicity, the filmmakers take us on a fascinating tour of life in a typical Iranian village and family. As Ali and his sister scheme to overcome this obstacle, the film touches on any number of universal themes: the close ties of siblings united in their common bond of avoiding often irrational parental anger; well meaning, loving parents overwhelmed with the trials of everyday life who are often compelled to act out in ways that seem cruel to the children who adore them; the petty viciousness with which children often strike out at each other, yet, at the same time, the often unexpected kindness and empathy with which they also treat one another. The film manages to keep the audience constantly engrossed in its action without once resorting to even a smidgen of incredibility or melodrama. Beautifully directed, with a superb soundtrack filled with heightened naturalistic noises, it is a film of many-splendored wonders, its lyricism caught in a glimpse of soap bubbles floating around a backyard produced by two children abandoned to their moment of incomprehensible youthful joy, its high drama found in a shoe racing down a city sewer with a desperate young girl in tow.

The actors, children and adults alike, underplay their roles in so naturalistic a fashion that one does not even feel they are performing at all; the film, through them, becomes a magical fabric of life that draws the audience deep into its world.

"Children of Heaven" brilliantly demonstrates that works of art often arise from the observation of the most seemingly mundane concerns of daily life and reminds us that this provides far more drama than all the exploding spaceships, car chases and hyperkinetic melodrama that flood the screen in the guise of entertainment. It certainly shows just how phony, empty and bereft of life most American films are. Don't miss "Children of Heaven"! It is a richly rewarding experience.
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Solid, moving. There should be more movies like this!
timffoster13 November 2003
This movie quietly puts to shame the majority of junk spewing out of Hollywood. A fat wad of cash thrown at big names and special effects cannot move the human soul like the innocence and sincerety displayed by Majidi's cast and direction. It's a shame that there are not more movies like this.

The plot is simple, the actors sincere and the tone spot-on. This movie works because we're drawn into the world of Ali, his life and his surrounding. Kudos to Majidi's craftsmanship. Ali's plight, though simple (if not trivial to most of us), becomes his obsession because of his love and respect for his sister and his family. We would do well to be so moved! The climax of the movie is brilliant! Ali's grueling determination to win a race and get shoes for his sister results in an unwanted triumph! (Sorry - no spoilers here. You'll have to see the movie). I must be getting older, because I'm moved with emotions just describing the movie -- and it's been months since I've seen it!

The redemption of Ali's resulting emotion and confusion will be lost on an innatentive viewer, so *PAY CLOSE ATTENTION* to the last 10 minutes of the movie.

Beauty doesn't have to forcibly blow you away. This movie is simply beautiful, and it will blow you away.
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Brilliant in its simplicity!
Mike-55631 January 1999
I find it most difficult and awkward to make comment on films that I personally do not like. That is why I could talk for days about this wonderful Oscar Submission!

Children Of Heaven is one of those rare films that not only I want to talk about, but everyone else who has seen it seems to be raving about. This tender and triumphant little jewel of a film had every head turning at the recent 1999 Nortel Palm Springs International Film Festival, January 7th-18th. After it's first showing at the festival, people were indeed talking!

"Did you see that film from Iran?" "No, any good?" "Just wait, go see it, we'll talk later!"

The Children Of Heaven follows the relationship between an impoverished brother and sister, Ali and Zahra, who are thrust into a difficult circumstance all revolving around a pair of sneakers. How they choose to solve their problem themselves, without telling their parents, is what makes the story so heart-warming and unique. What follows is a tender, moving tale of compassion, determination, and deep family love.

Bravo writer/director Majid Majidi!
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This Film So Overwhelmed Me With Joy, I Feel Obligated to Share My Emotion With All Who Would Listen!
KissEnglishPasto25 October 2013
............................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA and ORLANDO, FL

It's easy to understand why there are over 100 reviews of "Children of Heaven". Normally, that simple fact would have dissuaded me from adding a review of my own. But, as I'm sure others have felt, this film so overwhelmed me with joy, I feel obligated to share my feelings with all who would listen!

After watching "Children", it occurred to me that I have, perhaps, never seen an Iranian film I didn't like. This film celebrates the essence and innocence of youth, with an unencumbered intensity, with such unpretentious panache, that any comparison to American films that make an effort along similar lines, regrettably, seem rather empty, almost laughable in comparison.

The fierce sibling rivalry so familiar in the majority of American movies is replaced here by a warm, caring fraternal relationship based on love, consideration, self-sacrifice and mutual respect. These little Muslim children demonstrate the most exemplary of true Christian behavior in both word and deed. I hope that here, in America, this opinion can be stated clearly, in a review such as this one, without fear of provoking a mindless outpouring of reactionary negative clicks.

I feel more than a tinge of remorse, even embarrassment, when I think of the millions of Iranians who see far too many American films where children are portrayed, more often than not, as selfish, wise-cracking, foul-mouthed, bullying, disrespectful, totally inconsiderate little brats. To make matters worse, this abhorrent behavior is too often viewed as copacetic, or worse, even exemplary, something that kids today often strive to imitate.

Some have commented that "Children" seems incomplete or leaves them feeling somewhat bewildered or left them hanging in mid-air. All I can say to them is just reflect carefully for a moment on the value systems of the kids in the movie...maybe then you will be able to feel much more satisfied with this great cinematic experience.


Any comments, questions or observations, in English or Español, are most welcome!
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Wonderfully heartwarming
Gordon-119 March 2003
Wow, what can I say? Every bit of this film is so warm! It really looked at the world from a child's perspective. Every single scene is inundated with sweetness and the innocence of children. How they share one pair of shoes was amazing...and heartbreaking. How the little sister had no confidence in her brothers shoes was shown in such a warm and effective way. The ultimate despair Ali felt when he won was also so heartbreaking. Ali and his sister are both so cute and they can really act. This film can easily move one to tears. Do watch it!
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blue-726 July 2004
What a marvelous thing film can be. It can touch us and open our hearts to a culture that is both different and familiar to ours. CHILDREN OF HEAVEN, a film by Iranian filmmaker, Majid Majidi, takes us into the world of a little boy and his sister, letting us feel the love and trust that they have in each other. The boy, through no fault of his own, loses his little sister's newly repaired school shoes the day before she needs them. It becomes their secret. They try sharing a pair of his sneakers -- the girl wearing them in the morning and he in the afternoon to school. The wonderful, innocent faces of the beautiful Iranian children and their code of honor, even in poverty, provides the bases for a very uplifting tale of children trying to overcome a crisis. The direction, cinematography, music are all outstanding -- but it is the children that you will fall in love with. Well worth picking up on DVD (though there are no "Extras" to speak of).
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Wholesome 100% natural cinematic staple -- well-leavened and savory!
Ruby Liang (ruby_fff)16 February 1999
This translates to MUST-SEE! It's a credulous incredible storytelling of a young brother and sister in Tehran, and the adventurous saga around one very important pair of sneakers.

The two young actors are amazing -- they play their guileless naïve sensitivity with such earnestness! Central character, Ali, the 9 year old brother, is Mir Farrokh Hashemian, who really carried the film with his legwork, and the younger sister Zahra is Bahareh Seddiqui, who contributed her restrained share of screen presence. The pair is so natural: those furrowed faces, anxious knitted brows -- the range of sad faces the two came up with! The bond between the brother and sister is so warm and joyful - in spite of misfortunes.

The storyline is seemingly simple. Such story-weaving knack writer-director Majid Majidi has -- he can make chasing along a streaming gutter into an intense dramatic episode! The story has the texture likened to a Thomas Hardy novel (poverty setting, episode after episode, turn of events), yet such a relishingly simple delivery. He doesn't have to tell it all on the screen -- little nuances and observations suffice.

It's heartening to see young children who are polite and respectful to their elders, responsible and caring in dealing with their everyday problems, and not give up -- such quiet fortitude in spite of disappointments, such tolerance of their circumstance yet still able to find joy in little things. We catch a smile here and there, e.g., when they enjoy the impromptu soap bubbles, or when he encouraged his sister by giving her small tokens.

This is an absolute gem of a family (value) film. Children's emotions untapped, yet adults are not left out -- touches of grown-up connections: the parents, the elderly couple next door, the shop-owners, all made this world very real.

The camerawork, and the well-designed use of sound mixed with accompanying music (different tonal quality instruments were applied) complemented this cinematic experience. A poetic ending -- there's a serenity about it all.

I hope "Children of Heaven" will win this year's 71st Academy Award Best Foreign Film Oscar -- it will receive its due exposure and more people will experience this gem.

Along the lines of poverty and shoes, I thought of the Italian 1978's "The Tree of the Wooden Clogs" by writer-director Ermanno Olmi. And, on a story with substance and good acting by an Iranian young boy, there's 1989's "Bashu, The Little Stranger", by writer-director Bahram Beizai. Both are movies to be appreciated.
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Majid Majidi is a genius
MollieEternity28 July 2004
Majid Majidi is a genius. He is a director and actor of great talent. This film presents a sweet story of a brother and sister, their bond and their unique solution to solving the problem of a pair of lost shoes. The child actors are adorable and utterly convincing and the production of the film is of such quality that you get lost in watching it. The story itself is humorous, at times, and inspiring. Though the premise may be simple, each scene is infused with such passion, beauty and emotion that the experience of viewing this film is anything but simple. To all who have yet to view the film, take note of the very last scene.
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Drewboy-226 April 2003
I just saw this film in South Korea at a church. The film is spoken in Farsi, the subtitles were in Korean. It didn't matter that I couldn't understand a single word, because the cinematography and the faces of the children, their parents and the other cast members did all the talking. A wonderful film that dispelled my notions of Tehran as a dark and forbidding place - actually it's quite beautiful! We Americans have not seen Iran since 1979 and it is my hope that soon we can restore relations again. I wouldn't mind visiting.
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Extraordinary Movie-making
butterfinger24 October 2004
Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven is such an extraordinary work of movie-making that it is in a realm of movies that are able to connect with anyone who remembers (or is amidst) their childhood, regardless of what country they come from. (Note: Films that have a universal appeal aren't necessarily better than films that only appeal to people from one or two countries, but making a film with a universal appeal is no easy task.) A boy named Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemian) loses his sister Zahra's ((Bahare Seddiqi) running shoes; Zahra threatens to tell their father (Mohammad Amir Naji). Petrified at his father's temper, Ali promises his sister that he will get his sister some new shoes as soon as possible. In the meantime, the two work out a tight shoe-switching schedule. The plot is inventive and provides some decent chuckles-good writing and comic timing. Hashemian is likable and relatable though he milks the babyish whimpering to an annoying extent. Naji is able to give us a stronger feeling that we are watching a real person on screen than any of the other actors in the film. It is not until the last ten minutes of the film, however, that we are swept up in a crazy whirlwind of emotion, jolting from despair to joy to suspense (though not in that order) and the last ten minutes can make a movie great. Majidi gives us homage to The Four Hundred Blows. The ending to Majidi's movie is somewhat similar to that of Francois Truffaut's; both movies contain the feeling of extreme desperation, but Ali has a goal in his life while Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is boldly going nowhere. Truffaut's film concludes with brilliant ambiguity, leaving us wondering whether Doinel's last five minutes on screen were triumphant or pathetic; Majidi does something quite similar (less ambitiously) in a way I would not dream of revealing.
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one of the best movie
spacedisaster31 August 2004
this movie is one of the best movie i have ever see in my was beautiful, it was well directed and the camera movements were pretty good, its just a small story with a big adventure, this movie shows love, happiness, and the poor people lives in Iran can't even afford to buy a pair of shoe..its a great movie...this whole movie is about the kid who lost the pair of shoes when he kept the shoe outside the store and the garbage man picks it up with all the other garbages, without knowing what to do, brother and sister lies to their mom and dad. the brother struggles so bad to get the shoe back somehow

for her sister, so she wouldn't be ashamed and hide her shoe before her friends.this movie is beautifully directed and it

should be rewarded 8.6/10.
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Children of Heaven breaks the mold of foreign films
Samantha Dahabi18 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven breaks the mold of foreign films. Foreign films are usually thought to appeal to only a sophisticated and cultured audience, but Children of Heaven is best suited for all audiences. Forget that this film is set in a foreign land with an unfamiliar culture. Forget that the script is written in a language that you can't understand. These elements are only a small part of the story that will whisk you away and get you lost in the simplicity of the plot. Children of Heaven follows the story of Ali and Zahra and their conquest to find a lost pair of shoes. In an attempt to hide the lost shoes from their parents, the brother and sister duo decide to share one beat up pair of sneakers. This films gives an inside view of the life of a poor Iranian family and the innocence of young children. Children of Heaven opens your eyes to culture different from your own. A culture very much stereotyped because of its common appearance in American newsstands. Children of Heaven tells a story never broadcasted in the media. It can help to show the similarities and differences between American and Iranian culture. Our similarities are more than your local news lets on. We both share a class system which separates the rich from the poor. We both share the importance of family relationships and religion. We often forget that people all over the world endure our same trials and triumphs. Children of Heaven forces its audience to examine their own lives. As Americans we wonder how children with so little can be content? We wonder what it means to live simply. This film reminds us to be thankful and not value our material possessions. It also reminds us the importance of strong family relationships. Next time you contemplate viewing a foreign film think of all the benefits. Viewing foreign films exposes you to new and different cultures, languages, music and landscapes. It can contradict stereotypes and biases conjured up by news reports. You will become more respectful to those with values and morals that differ from your own. Foreign films encourage you to explore new places and create appreciations for the benefits that your own culture has to offer you. WARNING: Children of Heaven may cause a new outlook on life. You will leave this film a little happier and more appreciative. Now don't say I didn't warn you.
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A Nutshell Review: Children of Heaven
DICK STEEL5 August 2007
Finally I've gotten my hands on a copy of Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven (not illegally of course, but from the library's collection), and have set aside some time to viewing this much talked about masterpiece. And I couldn't agree more that the film is of great quality. I've often selected titles for my pop to view since he's retired, and have gotten a call from him during a working day that I MUST watch this film. Of course I had to clarify that Jack Neo's Homerun is an adaptation of it, given that he found some similarities in plot, but I must say, any movie is worth its salt if it can move my pops.

There are so many things I like about Children of Heaven, and basically, the children Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemian) and Zahra (Bahare Seddiqi) who play the siblings, will definitely tug at your heartstrings with their innocence. The story goes that Ali happened to lose his sister's shoes during an errand run, and coming from a poor family, that spells disaster. Not wanting to be punished for it, given that both understand the predicament they're in, and not wanting to trouble their parents with yet another expenditure, they devise an ingenious, somewhat mad hat plan, to share their shoes - Zahra goes to school in Ali's, before running back to exchange them so that Ali could attend his classes. And this leads to many comical moments and accidental scenes that will surely make you go "awww", culminating in an exhilarating foot race which will put you on the edge of your seat.

But the skill here that Majid Majidi possess, is not to sledgehammer these emotions down your throat. Children of Heaven doesn't need to, but has in itself this magic that comes forth through its simple yet meaningful story, and through the strength of both children's acting. I was pretty amazed that both Amir and Bahare have this very charming and natural charisma in fleshing out their characters, their banter being excellent, and at times, without a need for words. Truly, they are the stars of this film, and their abilities will put some established big name actors to shame too. Majid Majidi has created characters that endear, but yet not out- of-reach fictional, as they are easily identifiable given that hey, these are the kind of sibling love, or blood being thicker than water, that almost everyone would have experience, or heard about.

Being my first Majid Majidi movie, I'm definitely piqued to want to watch a whole lot more of his films. The movie has superb production values, and like any other foreign movie, opened my eyes to the cultural and physical landscapes of countries that I've yet to visit. What I liked about it also is its showcase of the family, how both Ali and Zahra show this strength in maturity with their helping around the house, and being sensible, well-liked kids. It justifies the number of awards that it has won in festivals everywhere, and if you haven't watch this, please do. It's definitely highly recommended stuff!
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Precious movie with an universal message
azrailangelo8 April 2006
This is one of the most touching movies I have ever seen so far. It has to be seen by everyone, who wants great cinema with great messages. Nowadays there are very few films which combine these two.

You should watch this beautiful example of modern cinema with your whole family (especially with your children) and not only once, because it will change your view on life, on property, on family and on friendship! This is the first movie by Majid Majidi I watched. Therefore I can't say anything about other films he has made, but I can say this about "The Children of Heaven:

"Mr. Majid Majidi Thank You very much for this masterpiece of cinema!"
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Oh those golden childhood days...
Peter Young1 March 2011
Majid Majidi's Bacheha-Ye Aseman is a fascinating and deeply moving piece. It is a children movie which will be equally enjoyed by adults, and that's simply because it will take any adult back to their childhood days, back to the days when they did something wrong and were afraid to confess to their parents. The film was made with great simplicity and soul, and its impact is perfectly made through the characters of Ali and Zahra, two amazing kids who can set an example to anyone. Majidi brilliantly captures the world of these young golden-hearted creatures. They are smart, intelligent, innocent, respectful and caring. It's quite impressive to see how little kids pay respect to their seniors, what moral values they have, and their tender care for their parents' economic status and daily struggle is particularly moving. More than anything, it is their own sibling relationship which tugs at the heartstrings. Majidi's portrayal of the neighbourhood, the school where the kids study, and their own home, is most lifelike and authentic. Without a doubt, the script is the film's main winner, but the casting is one of the film's biggest strengths. Amir Farrokh Hashemian and Bahare Seddiqi are astonishing in their roles - charming, convincing, heartbreaking and totally relatable. You really feel for these kids and really want to settle their problems so that they can move on. This film is a true example of superb acting by child artists, and it shows how far they can go in their ability to explore the innocent spirit of childhood. Bacheha-Ye Aseman is a wonderful cinematic experience, which must not be missed by anyone. Just go and grab your seat, I assure it will keep you on the edge of it for one hour and a half and will be engraved in your heart long afterwards.
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best children movie ever made......
manish rathore15 July 2009
This is my favorite movie because no movie was able to touch my heart as this movie did.This is the best children movie ever made.I had seen it four year ago in television and after this i have seen it about 10 times and all the time i found it amazing.

this movie is for family viewing and nothing is negative in the movie, but on the other side itis a very realistic movie.

The best part of movie is it simplicity,even Hollywood should not be able to reach such level of film making. every character of the movie is very well portrait.the plot of the story was so simple and beautiful and very hearttouching.

this movie is a masterpiece and should be in IMDB250.
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Includes Summary (Spoiler) and Review
chgrbolt-117 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
One of my favorite movies is "Children of Heaven," written and directed by Majid Majidi, an Iranian film from 1997. The film industry in Iran is very different from the industry in America. In this film, you will not find any special effects, marketing tactics, or expensive sets. The movie is told in a very simple real fashion using camera work, acting, and real life streets and scenery, giving the film a realistic documentary feel. This characteristic of Iranian film draws us in to the story and gives us the ability to relate closely with the children in a way American films does not. The approach gives the film an honest character and believable reality. This subtitled film humanizes Iran for the American viewer. You realize that people are people no mater where they live, all have the same feelings and emotions. Ali The story is told through the children and their experiences. Children of Heaven takes you into the hearts and lives of a young boy, Ali (played by Amir Farrokh Hashemian), and his sister, Zhara (played by Bahare Sediqi), capturing the life of a family living in poverty in Iran. After watching this movie, seeing a story where a pair of lost shoes can be so important, you realize that we are very lucky to live in a time and country where most people never go without such basic items as shoes. This film shows us a place where people may not have much, but they have what they need most of all, each other. The family bond is strong, that can often be lost in the fast paced and transient society that America tends to be. The father works hard but is basically unskilled. He also has the burden of is caring for a sick wife and a baby as well. The children have to help out in many ways, which further bonds the family. The family lives in a small apartment with only one room. The movie begins as 9-year-old Ali goes out on errands, one of which is taking his sisters shoes to be repaired. The shoes are very worn but are mended. Afterwards he stops to buy some potatoes at the market, leaving the shoes and some other parcels at the front of the store. While Ali is in the store a scrap collector comes along and takes the shoes along with the other bags he collects there. When Ali comes out he finds the shoes missing. He frantically searches the fruit stand boxes, knocking down several in the process, and the storekeeper chases him away. He has a difficult and tearful time telling his sister about the shoes being lost. When Zhara realizes that they are truly gone, she wonders what she will wear to school. Ali knows that his family cannot afford to buy her shoes, and pleads with her to keep this a secret between then. Ali devises a plan and convinces Zhara to go along with it because their parents could not afford shoes at this time and it would only be a burden to tell them of the loss. Ali talks Zhara into sharing his shoes, with Zhara wearing them to her school in the mornings and Ali the afternoons to his. Zhara is skeptical but agrees and suggests that they clean the dirty sneakers. The kids find laughter in this experience as they play with soap bubbles and wash the shoes together. When it rains that night, Zhara wakes Ali, who goes out in the rainstorm to move the shoes to a dry spot. We are hopeful that the plan will work out, but there is not enough time to make the switch without Ali being late to school each day. Ali runs quickly to school and makes the best of the situation. One social difference that you learn about in the film is the schooling where the boys and girls are in separate schools. The schools are very regimented, teach discipline, and gender roles to the children. The students do not speak to adults without raising their hands and waiting for permission. In once scene you see how the family interacts and the honesty that is taught in the home. The father is working for the mosque breaking up a large piece of sugar into small lumps with a hand tool to be used for the tea at the prayer meeting. As they prepare to have tea at home they realize that there is no sugar, but the father will not allow them to use even a small piece because the sugar does not belong to them, it belongs to the mosque. This takes a lot of character when you are faced with doing without, and you have so much temptation right in front of you. However, for them there is no question, you exercise self-control and honesty.

In one scene, the gravity of the situation continues to build its emotional picture when Zhara loses one of the sneakers in the gutter on her way home from school. She runs down the street, desperate to catch the shoe. It was very distressful when she sat crying near where the shoe finally stopped, but remained out of reach in a covered section of the gutter. Fortunately a compassionate storekeeper helps Zhara retrieve the shoe and returns it to Zhara. She doesn't have much time to explain as Ali rushes to put on the shoes, one wet and one dry, and runs off to his own classes.

Ali and Zhara are very touching as they support each other through the adventures with the sneakers. There are several moments of humor as well, making this movie both sad and funny. Although Ali and Zhara are young they understand the gravity of the situation and the importance of not burdening the parents since they are already behind in rent and bills. The children take on the burden of the lost shoes so that their parents won't have to deal with one more problem. Ali truly wants to make it up to Zhara for losing her shoes. He gave her a pen he won for academic achievement, a simple gift that, although insignificant to you and I, is a generous and much appreciated gift between Ali and Zhara. Ali tells Zhara about the opportunity to run in a race to win a pair of sneakers. He promises Zhara he will win the sneakers for her. She is pleased and touched as Ali assures her he can win the shoes for her. The smile on her face is brilliant. Ali is a fast runner and feels that he can win. He has a tearful meeting with the coach and tries to convince him to try him out for the race. Although he has missed the deadline, the coach decides to allow him to race after he sees how fast he can run.

Zhara sees a young girl in the school yard wearing her missing shoes, she befriends the girl after she and Ali follow her home and they see that she has a blind father, they realize that she needs them as much as they do. Zhara is reassured of the girls' honesty when she returns Zhara's pen, the gift from Ali, to her after she saw Zhara drop it in the street.

The race scene is suspenseful as we run along with Ali. As he runs he envisions his sister going to school in his old shoes. Ali is ahead in the race although he is running in the same worn shoes that he shares with Zhara each day. Ali finds himself in 1st place as he comes toward the finish line. He slows down and lets runners pass him by but finds that he is now in 4th place. He struggles to regain his position and fate steps in again, causing Ali to finish in 1st place. Ali cries because h has not won the shoes for Zhara. Everyone is a little shocked that he is not excited to win 1st place with the prizes that it brings. However, we know that although he wins the race, he lost the prize. In his heart he has lost so much, he will continue to carry the burden until Zhara has shoes again.

At home, Ali soaks his sore and blistered feet in a fountain as gold fish swim around. Fortunately, the children are not to be burdened for much longer, in the final scene we watch the father buying shoes for Zhara and Ali with money he eared doing side work as a gardener on the rich side of town. My only disappointment is that we don't get to watch them receive the valuable gifts. This movie shows the simple, unquestioned love between a brother and sister. Instead of the lost shoes coming between them, they make the best of it and become closer by working things out together. You are taken back to the purity and innocence of your childhood through Ali and Zhara. This movie is about much more than a lost pair of shoes, it is about how a family is defined by the things that they do and how they treat each other. Their actions and their decisions make them who they are. Those that try to do right by others and care about people will be rewarded in the end, just not always in the way you expect you can. Its not always in your control.
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Simple and excellent
MR 174 May 1999
Now this is certainly the film that should have got the Foreign Language Oscar. A shame that the winner was "Life is Beautiful", by far the worst of the nominees.

The story of the brothers that help each other in their small difficulties is extremely touching. Here we have a film that shows us real life and also remind us of our childhood and all the problems we had then, that we just forget with the years. Even the kid's race in the end is excellently made, making us cheer for the boy as never before.

The cast is great, specially the brothers, and the director has certainly given us a lesson of directing. Congratulations to everyone involved in the making of this great movie.
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Nezz3 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I got the chance to watch this movie on a DVD for the first time 2 days ago.

Children of Heaven is a very good movie. And coming from Iran, I was impressed. The storyline may be simple, and you may think that you may not have anything to cheer about or feel angry about, believe me when I say this movie will make you feel a variety of emotions, from shocked to sad to happiness, to disappointment. I credit all that to the simple, yet extremely powerful story, the excellent direction and the magnificent charisma of the two young leads. They shone and they will draw you into the story. My most favorite scene for this movie is the marathon scene. The fact that Ali had to beg and cried to get a place in the running team was heart wrenching, and when the camera focused on Ali running, we will cheer and cheer him on when he fell back. There was total silence except for his sister's voice of blaming him for losing her shoes and as he ran, he kept seeing his little sister, carrying her schoolbag running and running to rush him his pair of shoes so that he can go to school was sad. And he ran and ran and realized he was going to get first place and I screamed, "Don't! 3rd place Ali!" and Ali ran a little slower and counted, "one, two" and he was third until one young man passed him and he was fourth and he ran harder and harder without thinking.

In the end he won 1st place and got a free trip and his coach was overjoyed. But the tired Ali was silent and he was crying before the cameras. And when he went home, he couldn't say a word and his sister knew there was no shoes and she walked away disappointed and Ali sat by the fountain, with the goldfish in the pond nibbling at his blistered feet and he felt he had let his beloved sister down. That was the ending, but we all knew it will be a happy ending when his father comes home with the new pair of shoes, for both of them. And this was the success of this movie; you felt like you were Ali or Zahra and you will feel deeply for these characters.

10/10. The best foreign language movie I have ever seen on any subject which I feel justifies the full marks.
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A Social Director
Emilio Latorre27 February 2005
Nobody like Majid Majidi has recreated poverty and suffering of millions of people all over the world. His films show in a very natural, but dramatic way how poverty and culture and domination, both work together to cause social pain.

He is a genius in the way he shows peoples feelings.

The flower pot in the kitchen of the film Baran shows a clear example of his enormous power to show feelings.

I hope the people in the industrialized countries learn more about other countries and poverty and suffering through films like this one.

The color of Paradise is also a master piece of art.
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Another great film from Iran
LeRoyMarko16 April 2001
This is just one of the many excellent movies that came out of Iran in recent years. Again the story is simple but poignant. Again the amateur actors do a wonderful job in their role. This is truly a movie that's enjoyable from beginning to end.

Out of 100, I gave it 89.
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CHILDREN OF HEAVEN and Eurocentrism
BottleGourdPlant22 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Majid Majidi's CHILDREN OF HEAVEN (2002) exists in radical opposition to various media representations of Iran Western viewers are most familiar with. Subversive politics, oil, female repression, terrorism, and hostage-holding irrational crazy people are not displayed in the film, images that pop into the average consciousness of a Westerner (i.e. the masses) when thinking of Iran. Quite the opposite is displayed alongside refreshing realizations that Iran is not entirely what Western media organizations have etched into the collective Western social unconscious. The value of Majidi's film for such Western viewers is its assistance in the mental decolonization process that might enable viewers to experience Iran absent from damaging Eurocentric stereotypes.

CHILDREN OF HEAVEN is a beautifully simple film. Given the main characters are children, the film is set up from their perspective. Alongside Majidi's covert filming technique using hidden cameras to bring out the highest possible realism from his actors, the children are in an impoverished situation with the burden of acute familial responsibility that prematurely matures them. These children, although improvised, are not miserable as various media would suggest, but happy and contented. The narrative circles around a pair of lost shoes and the strive to attain a new pair that are sought not out of a materialistic need but a fundamental need reflectant of the culture's attitude towards possessions, an attitude different from the goals and desires of the spoiled, obscene American brat of Hollywood. Although the spoiled, obscene American brat might likewise be a stereotypical representation, within the context of discussing representations, it is significant to discern the contrast.

Ella Shohat and Robert Stam note in UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM* that Eurocentrism (or the belief in the supremacy of European culture and values whilst demonizing non-European or non-Western cultures and values as subservient) is "endemic in present-day thought and education… (and) is naturalized as 'common sense.'" From this limited perspective, it is common sense to believe that people of the "Middle East" (a Eurocentric term) are suffering, crawling through the dirt, looking for the remnants of their families that had been blown to bits in a terrorist attack as a blood-stained Koran looms in the background. One might not venture too far from a film such as THE EXORCIST (William Friedkin, 1973) where a demonic spirit spawns from an archaeological dig site in the Middle East, possesses a white American girl, then is repressed and conquered by means of a Catholic priest to understand Eurocentric representations in Western culture and view the Middle East as mystical, evil and worthy of fear.

What is scary, though, as Shohat and Stam note, these sentiments are accepted and normalized, etched into the fabric of the social unconscious. Just as the sky is blue and the grass is green, Eurocentricism elicits normalized depictions of Iran (or other countries in the Middle East) as a nation that births evil terrorists. But Ali and Zhara, the children of CHILDREN OF HEAVEN are anything but evil -- they are, rather, transcendent, "of Heaven." This is brought to fruition at the end of the film in the famous scene of the goldfish kissing Ali's feet in the circular communal pool in his village. Quite the opposite of a destroyer of peace, Ali IS peace.

This goldfish image serves as a powerful device within the narrative, but more importantly, for Western viewers, serves in the mental decolonization process, a process that must be engaged to replace negative perceptions of a culture with truer renderings. The goldfish leaves viewers in an extremely calm space, almost meditative, a malleable ending hinting that there is much more to Iranian culture versus the ugliness presented via various media -- there is even beauty, emotion, and harmony. Such intense emotion yields great enjoyment, and, in CHILDREN OF HEAVEN, great enjoyment (and liberation) is gleaned for the sake of a culture previously thought of as demonic and regressive.

While it is true Iran, like any country, has issues, it is important to remember these issues do not encompass the entirety of Iranian culture. When viewers focus only on what is bad, the beauty and value of Iran is forgotten, submerged beneath much negativity as unthinking Eurocentric beliefs are perpetuated and passed down to subsequent generations. CHILDREN OF HEAVEN reminds viewers of the unthinking thought-process Western minds so willingly accept -- the film helps humans realize there that the talking heads on their television sets might not be representative of absolute truth.

*Shohat, Ella & Stam, Robert. UNTHINKING EUROCENTRISM: MULTICULTURALISM AND THE MEDIA. London and New York: Routledge, 1994
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Very Talented Filmmaking!
g-bodyl2 August 2014
Children of Heaven, which is Iran's selection for best foreign film at the Academy Awards, is a very good movie mainly because anyone in this world can relate to the topic of family and showing love to each other no matter the living circumstances. As an Iranian film, it is definitely played safe but a film with such an universal theme and elegantly told as here should really not be missed, especially by movie-lovers.

Majid Majidi's film is about a young boy named Ali who accidentally lost his sister Zahra's shoes. But their family can ill afford to buy new shoes, Ali decides to share his shoes with his sister until he can get new ones for her and so he can avoid punishment.

The acting is pretty good, and pretty heartfelt. There is no questioning the chemistry between Amir Farrokh Hashemian as Ali and Bahare Seddiqi as Zahra. Reza Naji who plays as their father is also good as the man who is trying to do all he can to provide food for his family.

Overall, Children of Heaven is a simple film but it displays a strong message about the bond of family. There are some talented films from the Middle East and this is one of them. It's a strong film about courage and about doing what's right. My favorite scene is where the father and the son leave their poor slums as they head uptown to the rich neighborhoods. This film shows how American kids are vastly different than kids from these parts of the world.....and not exactly in a good way. This film is a little too simple for me, but there is no denying how powerful this film is. I rate this film 8/10.
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A poignant reminder of how a child sees the world.
mendnow19 June 2011
Cost $180K, grossed a million! Here's why in my opinion.

Humanity at it's best, as seen through the eyes of a child. Through Majidi's artful directorship we get an intimate understanding of two children's (Ali & Zahra) thoughts, feelings, and intentions from start to end. C.O.H. highlights some very important basic (and increasingly more scarce) core values: courage, honesty, cooperation and faith (and others).

Hard work and co-existence... in a simple village within Tehran, a personal tragedy unfolds between 9-year-old boy (Ali), and his 7-year-old sister (Zahra). These children live with their parents in a bare-bones, one-room flat; the family is faced with a life of poverty and no perceivable future otherwise; each member takes part in doing everything he or she can to survive. The viewer has an opportunity to relate, even connect personally with the characters, thanks to the authenticity of plot, filming, and acting.

Humanity at it's best, the real deal. This film helped me appreciate children's innocence and the poisoned thinking I sometimes have, about teaching my own children too much too soon.
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