Turtles Can Fly (2004) Poster

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Hope and Despair in a World on the Brink
aliasanythingyouwant5 December 2005
Turtles Can Fly takes place in a world of hellish bleakness, a land that seems post-apocalyptic with its barren expanses, its piles of rusted military machinery, its barbed-wire and tents. It's a world that has suffered wars before - the wreckage of them is everywhere, spent shells piled like cord-wood, disabled tanks tossed together like so many discarded toys - and again it is preparing for conflict; the talk among the people is all about the great army that's coming to invade, and sweep everyone away, they believe, in a tide of fire. But this is no fictional, Mad Max world - the story takes place in a village/refugee camp on the border between Kurdish Iraq and Turkey, and the great army the people speak of is the American force come to remove Saddam Hussein from power. With a kind of superstitious dread the village elders await news from the outside, buying themselves a satellite dish so they can watch CNN (but not the forbidden channels, the "sexy and dancing"). The guy who installs the dish for them is a figure of local renown nicknamed Satellite. He's about thirteen years old, yet comports himself as an adult, speaking to the elders on equal terms with them, arguing with them, refusing to stay and translate the English-speaking news programs. Besides his dish-installation and linguistic services, Satellite also has a few other irons in the fire. His main source of money is land-mines, digging them up and selling them to dealers, and to help him he employs an army of orphaned kids, many of whom bear the marks of accidents related to their deadly trade, missing and mangled limbs.

The film revolves around this anything-but-lonely Satellite, portrayed by Soran Ebrahim as a whirlwind of words and energy, who leads his compatriots through the darkness of a world where family ties have been not just ripped apart but obliterated, where the possibility of death or dismemberment lurks around every rock. Not quite a Messiah - he's too practical for that, and too easily distracted - Satellite takes on a quality reminiscent of Kipling's Kim, the quality of precociousness forced by circumstance to evolve not only into adult competence but the kind of leadership, firm but benevolent, one would be proud to discover in a general. The great thing about Satellite is that director Bahman Ghobadi allows him to be a kid too. Newly arrived in the village are a girl and her two brothers, one of whom has had his arms blown off, the other of whom is a blind infant with a propensity to sleepwalk; Satellite takes a particular shine to the girl, a pretty but somber creature named Agrin, and tries to impress her by diving into a pond for the red fish that allegedly dwell in its silty depths (he doesn't know that the girl, traumatized by Saddam's soldiers, is far beyond being impressed by anything, and is in fact suicidal).

There are no adult characters of any importance in Turtles Can Fly; the only grown-ups are the village elders, a load of cranky, useless worry-worts, and the various shady arms dealers Satellite does business with, who care about nothing but dickering. There's no sense of traditional family structure for the lost children of this borderline world, this barren, unforgiving land with its hidden dangers, its artifacts of calamities past; there's no kind of authority anywhere, except the soldiers on the other side of the border, who the kids like to tease until they fire off their guns (a crippled boy uses his withered leg as a "gun" he pretends to shoot at a border-guard). There's a certain irony to the elders' concern over the coming invasion - they fear some terrible thing is about to befall them, failing to realize that the earth-shattering event has already happened, that the village and the camp are filled with children whose parents have been killed or fled, that their society has already been torn into a million pieces, and that a different order has begun emerging, one represented by Satellite, who speaks not only the native tongue but English too, who knows about the new ways of technology as well as the old, who doesn't dread the coming of the Americans but awaits it with excitement. Satellite and his kids represent the future, one that is fraught with peril but also promises hope, but at the same time there are darker shadings, embodied by the character of Agrin, who wishes to do away with the infant she's been saddled with, and do herself in as well.

Agrin is a mysterious character, a young woman who has been sapped of the will to live, who seems unable to feel anything anymore, who yet retains some strange magnetism, which is not lost on Satellite, who becomes entranced by her, but can never penetrate her impassive surface. Satellite embodies the essential life-force, the thing that survives in spite of everything, that shucks off misery and heartbreak and keeps plugging forward, while Agrin embodies the opposite force, which wishes to succumb to death's whispers, to fall into the fog and disappear forever. The film exists in a murky gray area between life and death, between plucky survivalism and blackest despair. The triumph of Satellite is that he keeps things moving toward tomorrow, not worrying about what kind of tomorrow is to come, but doing it because he has to, because there's no one else to do it. The film ends on an ambivalent note though: the American army has come at last, not to annihilate after all, but as the long-awaited convoy rumbles past, Satellite turns his back on it, and looks to the land instead. America, the film seems to be saying, offers no real salvation for this tortured world and its displaced people. The true salvation must come from within.
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Heartbreak in the High Hills of No Man's Land.
PizzicatoFishCrouch13 March 2006
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. The orphaned children are a range of interesting characters presented to us here, from Satellite, a sharp TV programmer to Pashow, an armless but still doggedly determined boy. The supporting children are shown as bright eyed watchers of war, eagerly awaiting it so that they can try their hand at the missiles, which, at first sounds amusing, but then escalates into something much more horrific, and we follow their misadventures through grainy camera-work, improvised dialogue and flashbacks.

The performances delivered by the children are nothing short of astounding. In the lead, Soran Ebrahim is in parts a mixture of caprice, zest and energy, and it is he who grasps our heart and makes for the first, slightly more light-hearted part of the film. In a completely different role, Avaz Latif is the film's heartbreak, and the one that endures the worst. Her performance is wordless, but she manages to portray all her deepest emotions through a look or gesture. When we delve deeper into the plot to realise exactly how much her character has suffered, it is then that the horror of war kicks in.

Turtles Can Fly is not one for the easily depressed. Truth be told, after watching it, I was still in tears for several minutes, utterly helpless and wishing that something could be done about the constant loss of innocence. Its message is blatant, and though a bleak one, presented in a harsh, disturbing war, makes a welcome change from all the Left, Right and Centre propaganda given to us in the Media. Turtles is a film that speaks for itself; no advertising needed.
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Moving story and amazing performances of a very young cast you will not lightly forget
verdiblanco6 February 2005
Watching this movie is an incredibly absorbing (and even physical) experience. It is amazing how the young cast (non-professionals, some of them actually lived in refugee camps along the Iraq-Turkish border) deliver such powerful performances. This is also a huge compliment to the director Bahman Gohbadi who directed the children and teens. Although the film depicts the nightmare where these children live in, it has also some comic moments, making it even more believable and real life. And what's more: the film never gets sentimental.

For me it is one of the best movies I have seen in the last few years. Not uplifting (I really needed a drink after wards) and a film you will not easily forget. On the other hand the story does provide sparkles of hope and the main characters are true survivors. So don't miss it when it plays in a theater near you! "Turtles Can Fly" won the audience award of the International Filmfestival in Rotterdam 2005 (Netherlands).
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Children as the Microcosm of the War on Iraq: An Astonishing Film!
gradyharp3 October 2005
'Lakposhtha hâm parvaz mikonand' (TURTLES CAN FLY) takes your breath away. Not only is the story by writer/director Bahman Ghobadi timely, it is one of the most devastatingly real examinations of the people of Iraq in the days before the American preemptive attack: it is more real because the entire story is told through the eyes of children.

The action takes place in Kurdistan, Iraq at the Turkish border. The temporary refugee camp in the hills is occupied by children who make money by gathering live mines and used shells from the military conditions under Saddam Hussein's rule. They struggle to make deals for a satellite dish so that they can provide coverage of the war for the elders (they are not allowed to watch Hussein's forbidden channels!), they form rival groups for the monetary aspects of weapons gathering, and they rely on a leader by the name of Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) who appears to be the oldest of the children. His 'associates' are the crippled boy Pashow (Saddam Hossein Feysal) able to run as fast as even Satellite on a bicycle with just one leg and a crutch; Shirkooh (Ajil Zibari) whose tears flow easily; Hengov (Hiresh Feysal Rahman) who lost his arms to the land mines and has the ability to foresee the future; and the mysterious Agrin (Avaz Latif) the sole girl who with Hengov is caring for a blind two year orphan Riga (Abdol Rahman Karim).

The children, all orphans, are on the watch for war they know will come, watch and listen for the Americans to arrive, and struggle for survival under Satellite's organized control. Agrin wishes to escape it all, pleads with Hengov to return to their home, but Hengov will not leave the child Riga. As the tension mounts tragedies occur, touching all of the children. But the manner in which the children finally observe as Hussein's statue topples and as the American troops distribute 'hopeful' fliers from helicopters, events bringing an end to their temporary refuge camp status, is heart-wrenchingly portrayed.

The film is full of passion. The young 'actors' are splendid: how Ghobadi found such children to play tough parts in such a wholly naturalistic way is a true feat of genius. This is a powerful, disturbing, yet ultimately beautiful film that deserves everyone's close attention. In Kurdish with English subtitles. Highly recommended! Grady Harp
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Exquisite window on children's suffering of war
katchita26 April 2005
I am a movie fan who wades through a lot of alternative films in the hopes of finding the rare gem that does make it through once every few years. This film is one of them; I saw it Wednesday and turned around and saw it again on Saturday. If anything, the second time I felt like it was over FASTER, which I suppose is another sign of how exquisite this film is. It is one of the saddest films I have seen, and but it treats the pain of war in an unblinking way, recognizing that some of us simply are not equipped to carry that pain, for reasons that cannot be fathomed.

This film contains scenes framed and shot in a way you will never have seen before; the cinematography was creative and fresh. The perspectives of the children involved were haunting and wonderful. To elicit performances from these young actors (the youngest being three years old) is simply genius. I have not seen the director's previous work, but I am looking forward to exploring what I hope will be a fresh new star from a part of the world that the West desperately needs to learn about.
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Remarkably manages to sustain a burning candle of hope, however faint the glow.
travisbrooks20 October 2004
A viewing of this film earlier tonight at the Chicago Film Festival was immediately followed, in my case, by a trip to a bathroom stall where I stared blankly at a wall for fifteen minutes amidst a state of pure, and surprisingly prolonged, emotional helplessness. Prior to this evening, Schindler's List, Life is Beautiful and a select handful of others comprised my elite list of unforgettable films that fearlessly tackle the ambivalent, or at least paradoxical, human condition by managing to straddle the inherent injustice and the unfettered hope of perseverance, but Turtles Can Fly now ranks above all others. Despite frequenting this website for years, I have never been previously inspired to comment on anything.
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Compelling film about life during war
littlemissknowitall12 September 2004
Incredible performances from a cast mainly comprised of children and teens. Director/writer Bahman Ghobadi blends day-to-day experiences common to people everywhere (falling in love, being asked to do something you don't really know how to do, etc ...) , with some of the realities of life in a Kurdish village in Iraq before the (most recent) war, to create an incredibly moving film. It is at once specific to its time and place, and universal. There is horror and humour, honour and compassion.

It's beautifully filmed, too, but the power comes totally out of the stories and the kids, who are in effect playing themselves.

I saw this at a festival, don't know what kind of distribution it will get, but I strongly recommend anyone who gets the chance going to see it.
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It's a wake up call for humanity
mversion4 September 2005
It's an excellent work Ghobadi did. When the movie finished I couldn't leave the chair for the next 10 minutes. I ran to the toilet to finish my crying. It reminded me of how little I'm aware what's going on in the world, even next door to where I was born and my own childhood.It reminded me that the humanity in me hasn't died yet but needed to be woken up. It's about a tough life where the kids are in charge of adults and more mature than them. The movie gives a clear picture of a bunch on refugee Kurds on their own land. Ghobadi cleverly draws the picture of a disaster in the Middle East: The Kurds, who has been on that land for thousand of years but still don't own a flag and their struggles between Turkey, Iraq,Iran and America.

Any one, who is interested in a bit of information about what's going on over there as well as the other problems in the area should see this movie. A black comedy in some ways when you can't help smiling while crying.
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Life in Iraq, as seen through children's eyes
Jerome17 July 2005
"Turtles Can Fly," the haunting new film from Iranian writer/director Bahman Ghobadi ("A Time for Drunken Horses"), begins with an arrestingly beautiful image: A young woman (Avaz Latif), resolute in her manner, stands barefoot on a rocky ledge, contemplating a leap that will surely end in death. The landscape is gray and forbidding; the light is cold; the tone ominous. Then the camera comes closer to the actress' face, wreathed in tangled brown hair, and we realize, with a start, that she is a child.

Ghobadi's film is a story of wounded children, a devastating reminder of the costs of war. It's set in an Iraqi village near the Turkish border, in early 2003, as the villagers await news of an American invasion. As they try to set up a satellite dish, a key player emerges: a boy known as Satellite (Soran Ebrahim), with Coke-bottle glasses and a pushy, ever-yelling confidence. He's the expert in this operation, in the way that kids worldwide seem to know more about technology than their elders, and he's also the ringleader of the village children, who follow him like loyal acolytes.

Satellite, in his bulldozer way, soon catches the eye of Agrin, the girl we saw in the opening scene, and he's dazzled by her, gazing at her with Mooney eyes. "I've been looking for a girl like you," he tells her. She, orphaned by war, takes care of her two brothers — one is armless, maimed by a land mine; the other is a toddler — and ignores Satellite. There's an air of quiet tragedy about her, the reason for which is explained late in the film, in a scene so wrenching it's almost unbearable to watch.

The performances in the film — all by nonprofessional actors — vary in quality. Ebrahim has some touching moments as Satellite but rarely varies his voice from a shout; it suits the character's almost corporate like personality but eventually becomes wearying. But Latif, as the tragic Agrin, makes the most of her few lines; she's calm, astonishingly beautiful and skilled enough to let us see the heavy weight on this grown-up child's shoulders.

Ghobadi and director of photography Shahriar Assadi linger on the vast landscape, with its bleak fields and desolate, branch less trees, and create some beautiful effects with shadows. (In one shot, the hills glow under a night-blue sky as the tiny shadow figure of a child appears between them.) And the director's eye for heartbreaking detail is keen. In this harsh, desperate world, a child cries, with no hands to wipe away his tears. Others stare at the camera, looking far older than they should, as if seeking the end of a nightmare.
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Unique characters, Great insight
MovieFan26 February 2005
Among the hundred reasons I could list for you to go see this film, the first is the main character Kak "Satellite." He is truly a unique character - the likes of which I've never seen before. It is pretty impressive for a filmmaker to create something new - an on screen person so real, so normal, yet so different than anything we've seen. From the opening moments of the movie you feel you are getting to know a real human being. Satellite and the refugee children whose trust and love he's earned are the stars of this film. I don't think I've ever seen child performers better than some of these kids - if you were blown away by the children in movies like "City of God," this is a another one to look at in terms of performances. Stylistically this film is in a different category - it's a beautifully realistic movie - it's narrative unfolds effortlessly. You never feel you are watching a carefully crafted plot. You feel you are observing events that are happening - and yet it all, in retrospect, is well planned and crafted. The filmmakers and actors deserve much credit for creating a movie with its own touching and realistic voice.
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The Heartbreaking War that Is not Shown on TV News
Claudio Carvalho22 April 2014
On the Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border, the boy Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) is the leader of the kids. He commands them to clear and collect American undetonated minefields in the fields to sell them in the street market and he installs antennae for the villagers. He goes with the local leader to buy a parabolic antenna to learn the news about the eminent American invasion but nobody speaks English and Satellite that knows a couple of words is assigned to translate the Fox News. When the orphans Agrin (Avaz Latif) and her armless brother Hengov (Hiresh Feysal Rahman) and the blind toddler Riga come from Halabcheh to the camp, Satellite falls in an unrequited love for Egrin. But the girl is traumatized by a cruel raid in her home, when her parents were murdered and she was raped. She wants to leave Riga behind and travel with her brother Hengov to another place, but he does not agree with her intention.

"Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand", a.k.a. "Turtles can Fly", is a heartbreaking movie with a war that is not shown on TV News where the victims are the children. The cast is formed by real refugees and is impressive the top-notch performances of the children. The title is curious since turtles lives on the water and on the land but do not fly. However, it is a metaphor since Bahman Ghobadi compares this reptile that moves from water to the land with the homeless Kurds that migrate moving forward. The fly might be a metaphor for the liberation from Saddam Hussein's regime. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Tartarugas Podem Voar" ("Turtles can Fly")
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The Iraq you won't see on FoxNews
Tilly Gokbudak2 February 2006
I was very impressed with Bahman Ghobadi's film "Turtles Can Fly." With his other two films "A Time for Drunken Horses" and "Marooned in Iraq," he has now proved himself to be an effective realist. Though like most Iranian filmmakers, the ethnic Kurdish Ghobadi may be seen as a director who is too slow for fast food cinema tastes here in America. But, he allows every character to evolve and their stories to be told. The film's two most moving sequences involve one in which the title character Satellite tries to save small female child from American land mines, and another where the main girl in the story walks towards a cliff where she will contemplate suicide. With a series of flashbacks, we quickly understand why she is on the verge of taking such a desperate leap. The film also shows hope upon the outset of the American invasion. The Kurdish citizens are clearly burned out with Saddam Hussein and desperate for a change. But, it is clear from the moments that leaflets are dropped from planes that the American forces will be there for other reasons which have nothing to do with freedom for the Kurdish people, or any Iraqis. The film is not likely to change anyone's political view of the Iraq War here domestically. Conservatives will see the Kurds' plight as a good reason why we have to stay in Iraq. Liberals will see that the promise of an invasion without hostility is an impossible one because of vast cultural differences and in the end, nothing will really change in Iraq at all. I am one who believes films can not change a person's politics, and it seems clear that Ghobadi himself has mixed feelings about the whole affair. It should be noted that Ghobadi's "A Time for Drunken Horses" was the first Kurdish-language film to be shown in my father's country, Turkey. I am not Kurdish myself, but one has to find the fact that Ghobadi broke the barrier very ironic since Turkey is actually the country with the world's largest Kurdish population and because Turkey's best known filmmaker, the late Yilmaz Guney, was of Kurdish descent. Guney is also considered to be the best filmmaker of Kurdish heritage ever. But, just as Nuri Bilge Ceylan ("Uzak/Distance") is challenging Guney's place on the mantle as far as Turkish cinema, Ghobadi might well soon be recognized as the foremost Kurdish filmmaker who ever lived, if he isn't already. However, none of these factors should take away from Guney's merits. He still deserves far international recognition for his work, but since he died in 1984, it seems that his torch has perhaps already passed on to other hands.
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A film of unforgettable power
Howard Schumann30 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Expecting another bleak, minimalist Iranian film I was totally unprepared for the exuberance and unforgettable power of Kurdish director Bohman Ghobadi's (Time For Drunken Horses) Turtles Can Fly. A joint Iran-Iraq venture, the film is the first narrative film to be shot in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein and is a view of war from the inside of a Kurdish refugee camp close to the Iraq-Turkish border just prior to and during the U.S. invasion. There is no overt political message in the film, yet the hundreds of parent-less children in the film, many with broken limbs from exploding land mines, tell a story of war that transcends politics.

In a country where there remains an estimated 50 million land mines, the marketing of unexploded land mines can be a lucrative business. At least, it is a means of survival for a thirteen-year old nicknamed "Satellite" who organizes groups of youngsters to defuse land mines and sell them to arms dealers for food. Assisted by friends Pashow (Saddam Hossein Feysal) and Shirkooh (Ajil Zibari), Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) is a cocky but natural leader who received his nickname from his ability to install satellite dishes in an area where the villagers are hungry for news about the upcoming U.S. invasion. The children live in a world that has no electricity and no schools and where watching television with a satellite dish is a luxury, especially when many of the channels are forbidden. Because satellite knows some English, he is asked to translate news broadcasts for the old men in the village but refuses, saying his job is only to install. Humorously, the elders cringe when he switches the channel to MTV.

A potential threat to Satellite's power is an armless orphan Hengov (Hiresh Feysal Rahman) whose ability to defuse land mines with his teeth lead to a struggle for power between the two. Hengov also has the ability to predict the future and, as their relationship warms, he ends up feeding information that enables Satellite to solidify his power over the children. One telling scene that Hengov predicts is when an American helicopter flies over the children clustered on a hill and drops leaflets saying that Americans will make this country a paradise, a hollow boast as it turned out. Satellite is attracted to Hengov's sister Agrin (Avaz Latif) who cares for Riga (Abdol Rahman Karim), a sightless two-year old boy, later revealed to be the result of a rape by Iraqi soldiers during a skirmish in which her parents were killed and her brother lost his limbs. Agrin is a haunting presence in the film and her ultimate acts of desperation bookend the film.

Turtles Can Fly is a remarkable work of commitment from Ghobadi, an assistant director on Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us. He wants the world to know the plight of millions of stateless Kurds who are at the mercy of politicians who support them when it suits their purposes and oppose them when it does not. Coming on the wake of Kore'eda's Nobody Knows, another film about abandoned children, Ghobadi's film is both a celebration of the innocence of children and a warning about the dangers they face from dictators, fascists, and over-zealous democrats. Far better than any CNN or El Jazeera news account possibly could relate, the story of the war is written in their soulful faces.
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eye-opening war film
Roland E. Zwick23 October 2006
It would be hard to imagine a more pertinent and relevant film than "Turtles Can Fly," an Iran/Iraq co-production that, like a modern day version of "Forbidden Games," looks at the horrors of war through the eyes of its most helpless and innocent victims - children. Set in a poor village located in Kurdistan, just a few steps from Iraq's barb-wired border with Turkey, "Turtles Can Fly" begins right before the American invasion of that Arab country in the spring of 2003. Many of the children of the village are orphaned refugees who earn money by finding, defusing, and then selling the many active land mines that lie strewn across the barren countryside. This is literally how most of them make their living. The main character is a teenaged boy who goes by the name of Satellite (one of his many duties is to hook up satellite dishes for the villagers' TV's) who, much like a pint-sized Fagin, sends his gang of kids - many crippled and missing limbs - out on daily missions to forage for mines. Another major character is a young girl who was raped by the soldiers who killed her family and who now carries the burden of "shame" that comes with having had a child out of wedlock and whose actions in this realm ultimately lay the groundwork for the story's final tragedy.

Given its harsh subject matter, "Turtles Can Fly" - which features wonderful performances from a group of children, some of whom have themselves lost limbs to landmines - is not always easy to watch, but there is a surprising amount of humor in the movie, as well as a tender-hearted compassion for its characters that makes it a compelling, moving experience. Much of the humor comes from the near-surreal juxtaposition of a Medieval existence and mindset with devices of modern technology such as trucks, television sets, satellite dishes etc. The protagonist's no-nonsense, sardonic approach to life and the people around him also generates some much-needed humor.

But, ultimately, this is a poignant, haunting movie that opens up a world largely unfamiliar to those of us living out our far more comfortable lives in the West. The movie is basically a series of slice-of-life vignettes that help us to understand the appalling conditions under which people in that part of the world are forced to survive. Yet even as they eke out some sort of existence against the greatest of odds, these youngsters still find time to laugh and play and fall in love, a fact that is bound to strike a responsive chord in viewers the world over. For the film is a heartbreaking and vivid reminder that when adults play at their games of war, it is the children of the world who suffer the most.
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A fully realized cinematic work of art
shivatinlin8 August 2006
This is an amazing film. To my mind, it is a fully realized cinematic work of art - one that has been carefully composed in every scene in order to provide an unique and powerful film-going experience. Without doubt, any viewer with an open heart and mind will be fully immersed into the world and lives of the young children portrayed in this movie.

As well as being a beautiful composition, 'Turtles Can Fly' is one of the strongest and most powerful anti-war movies ever made. The film is strewn with constant and dramatic images of a world at war - a massive junkyard of stacked shell casings, an arms bazaar filled with every type of small arms weapons and munitions available, children unearthing mines in a minefield, destroyed tanks with their turret being used as an elevated chair, helicopters disbursing pamphlets of American propaganda, the distribution of gas masks from the back of a truck.

And in the midst of all this, there are the children. They are the innocent victims of a world that has turned into a state of chaos and violence. The plights of children in war is always a terrible plight to consider, especially when they are parent-less and homeless - as the main characters in this movie are. Throw in a whole range of physical disabilities (children without arms, legs or sight) and you have the ingredients for a gut-wrenching discourse on the consequences of war - something the director utilizes with maximum effect.

This outer world is juxtaposed with an inner world that is dark and mysterious - children who have inner vision and prophetic sight, the strong bonds of kinship and friendship which are formed when there is little in life except each other, the bitter lessons of life that tear away the illusions that we all cherish so much (and cling to so vainly). We all cope in different ways and, if nothing else, this film is a study of how these wonderful children survive and replenish their sense of humanity. Of course, there are limits - and even the most hardiest of beings cannot withstand those horrible acts of inhumanity and injustice that some of these children had to endure. This is the tragedy which the film-makers expound to the viewer - and for this one, it has left a lasting impression.

And then there is the landscape, as much a part of the film as the characters. Hilly, stony and mostly treeless. littered with the remnants of war - at times it is almost a lunar landscape. The light in the film is leaden, cold and sullen - providing the story with a sense of doom and foreboding. It is a bleak place in which the spirits of the children can sometimes shed light into - but not always.

This movie has been made with a very clear sense of purpose and with poetic intent. It is like an arrow that has been shot truly from the heart and finds a bullseye. All praise to the film-makers - please continue to produce more movies as fine as this one is. Movies like this provide a powerful catalyst for making the world a better place. We must never, never forget that wars have human casualties - and the price is not worth paying for.
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Chance, Children
tedg29 November 2007
Sometimes when I experience a film that is working, I am amazed at all the chance events that occurred to bring it to my soul.

Film is a collaborative endeavor, so right at the start you need the various chance meetings that bring a team together, plus all the chance occurrences in each of their pasts that make them valued collaborators. That's true with the viewer as collaborator too, but there you have the additional mechanism of market forces. That collection of boundaries and channels is profoundly fickle and arbitrary, so if an artwork finds itself to you through commercial means, its been through a cosmic pinball machine with millions of lost siblings.

Sometimes — nay often — the subject of the film is about chance as well. That's the case in the uniquely cinematic notion of noir, which imposes a notion of arbitrariness of fate on ordinary people. Usually the noir "chance" is a result of those external, collaborative constellation of chance I mentioned earlier.

Now this. People living simple lives caught up in war, decades and decades of it, that rumbles into their lives by accident. You, dear reader, may choose to see this in the context of realism, of near-documentary. That's easy to do: the actors are all refugee children from the area. Their disfigured bodies are genuine. Their faces absolute. The situation is upon us. But I cannot escape seeing this as noir shown in the large.

The key idea of noir is that the viewer by his or her existence, bends the world of the film in such a way that coincidence, chance, manipulates the citizens of that world in odd ways that matter to us. Sometimes its mere amusement, a cruel bargain. In nonfilm life, real life of pain, this happens too, as decisions are made — often in remote and protected places — that change lives, that perturb by chance.

Here we have that folded: the reality of noir politics; the politics of noir film. It works in part because the kids connect. The one false ring here is that of the two main characters, one is a teenage girl. We learn of her special misery, and that forms the core of the construction. But she is lovely, beautiful in a pure sense that is non-Arab or Kurd in nature. This film is made by a Persian about Arab Kurds. In truth, there is scant racial homogeneity among Arabs: the designation is like "Hispanic" and is the identification is linguistic. But the features of this girl are not native to the area. Its as if we had Audrey Hepburn playing a slave girl. Surely there is a Persian/Aryan subtext here. Would we connect more if the girl were more typical? It hurts to think not.

But otherwise, the thing is so true, you will be swept up in it. Orphans who survive by clearing mines, many of them limbless. Wait until you see an armless boy collecting mines with his mouth to survive. Wait until you see all this with cinematic scope, framing and intimacy when required. There's no experimentation here: here cinematic techniques are all safe, muted for effect.

Here's the interesting thing for me. The construction, story-wise, is complex. It builds and elaborates. It has many threads. It mixes delicate, human things with grand, soft and puzzling ones. It fails. By that I mean it fails in controlling the construction. It ends badly. The shape is twisted and broken. Its bad storytelling. And yet that's so apt, and so reflective of the reality it references you wonder if it was deliberate, or merely a chance.

(There's a business about "trading arms" that's a bit precious.)

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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real can hits people's face as harsh as only like that
sonerozdogan30 November 2006
i don't know who is right in Iraq. i don't know how can i eat my meal in my home without thought of war-children. i don't know how can a

child become a mother and how can she kill her child. but i watch this movie with cursing to the god. there is a baby in this movie. a blind baby. i couldn't watch this baby in the last 30 minutes of the movie . i closed my eyes. i couldn't look at him. if there is a god i want to see him and i want to ask him about all of these wars and war-children. i want to kick his ass for these babies!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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The most powerful movie I've seen... period
fergarza716 May 2008
There comes a time in a movie buff's life where all his expectations are thrown way off by the sudden realization that he or she has seen the best representation of the medium, or theme movie... I really don't know what to think about my life long love with the movies, as both an escape and as entertainment. This movie is definitely not your ideal entertainment, but it's message cannot be denied, controlled or diminished... the power it emanates from it can be viewed as either loss or gain, depending on the perspective of the viewer.

It's a simple story of youths running wild and doing foolish things to entertain themselves. The only problem is that these kids are in the iraki border, at the end of Sadamm's reign. We get treated to a whole lot of kids and their daily lives on a refugee camp, where leader Satellite moves and gives orders to his minions, which include a lot of war-injured kids. Out of the blue three kids appear, a girl who Satellite fancies from the moment he sees her, her brother who lost his arms to a land mine, and a 2-3 year old boy, who hold a distance to this group led by Satellite, and it is these three kids who will forever change the minds and souls of the main characters.

I don't want to say more, as to not spoil the discovery from the first frame to the last one, but let me tell you that I have never been so moved by a movie in all my life. The obvious should be clear from the start, since the movie takes place on a ravaged land, where kids fend for themselves in unimagined ways and try not to lose their innocence in the process. One thing that I need to make clear is that maybe if I saw this movie 10 years ago it would not have passed the test of greatness, but being older and a little wiser (plus a father of a 2 year old girl), it hit too close to what as humans we wouldn't want to endure even in the worst times, which isolation, despair and the loss of hope. Suffice to say, there are moments where I pleaded with the movie's heroine and could not understand the great pain that would lead her to such extreme acts but they are there to understand that simply life is not all good, that the loss of innocence is far worst than limbs being ripped off or injured.

Watch the movie and prepare to be entertained, suffocated, horrified, but also be educated in the teachings of hope... be it either the hope of life or death. In the eternal words of Al Pacino, from the movie 'Scent of a Woman': '... there is nothing like and amputated spirit, there is no prosthesis for that...' With this in mind go out and enjoy this movie to the fullest... I know that you will not forget it, as I will not either.
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And life goes on
Charlie Chan4 May 2005
1. This is not an inspirational movie. Of the main characters, the one who gets off the easiest is the one whose beliefs and hopes are crushed.

2. This is not a realist movie. There are many realist scenes depicting the routine life of the children. But the characters also function as symbols, especially the seer Hengov, representing a traditional way of life and its fatalistic view of the future, and Satellite, representing a Westernized zeal. This introduces elements of mysticism to enter the movie, and means that some playing around with history and chronology is acceptable.

3. This is not an anti-American movie. No Iraqi Kurd was sad to see Saddam go. This does not obligate Ghobadi to become a cheerleader for U.S. policy. He has taken the sane view that the invasion will not magically solve the children's problems. Ghobadi may or may not support Bush's decisions, but he does not directly criticize America.

4. This is not a message movie. You are perfectly welcome, of course, to infer a message. But you should not ignore the aesthetic components. Ghobadi shoots fine landscapes: one particularly memorable image is of the children streaming up a slope, in anticipation of the start of hostilities - "Metropolis" transported to the countryside. All the performances are appropriate, and Soran Ebrahim and Avaz Latif are especially fine. The children shout because in their world, that's what it takes to be heard.

5. This is not a all-time great movie. But it's very close. Perhaps it's sophomoric in its fatalism, but its bleakness finally becomes so enveloping that it overwhelms you. Still, it would be unconvincing if it didn't demonstrate that even when day-to-day life is a struggle, it is possible to delight in living it. The fragility of this joy is the subject of this movie. Literary adaptations aside, this is one of the purest tragedies to ever hit the screen.
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Simple, Pleasant, Believable
ali_mvhd31 December 2004
The story is about human relations, told in a believable manner. Many people watch the film with the intent of piecing together a picture of what really occurred. However, the accounts are so divergent that such an approach seems doomed to futility. this isn't about determining a chronology of what happened in the woods. It's not about culpability or innocence. Instead, it focuses on something far more profound and thought-provoking: the inability of any one man to know the truth, no matter how clearly he thinks he sees things. Perspective distorts reality and makes the absolute truth unknowable. In the end, we are left recognizing only one thing: that there is no such thing as an objective truth. It is a grail to be sought after, but which will never be found, only approximated.
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Watch it and Don't Watch it
pedrofarinhastr30 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
OK. Here it goes. (i watched the movie like 20 minutes ago) I watched it with my parents (and i'm 27 y/o). I think my mother won't ever watch a movie again if i invite me after this, and my father i guess will have really troubles sleeping tonight.

Having said this, be warned this movie is highly touching for anyone with a soft heart.

I advise everyone to watch it, because it shows real life and there is no Hollywood ending, but at the same time i really really wish i didn't watch it.

Ps: i'm giving it a 10 out of 10 anyway..
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The boy reading the future through his dreams
Nanwaie_871 September 2009
Okey, since i have read a lot of comments, especially about the kid that could read the future. Everyone knows/thinks/judges as they have learned through the time they've lived.

I'm from Kurdistan, and i know for a fact that there are people who can read the future, through several different ways actually.

We have a persian book at home, which explains important dreams, and it actually explains very accurately, if you wake up and just had an important dream, the book very often explains what your dream means, and what the dream tells you that will actually happen in the future. And i know for a fact that 99% of the explanation of your important dream will actually happen(i explain this way of reading the future since the boy in the movie read the future through dreams). This is not the only way, but it takes a lot of time to explain :) Since im a kurd, i find this movie very moving, and very real, except for the armless boy seeing his sister on the tanks at the end. And it was very much a reality in a few parts of Kurdistan by the time i lived there. Maybe it still is byt i've lived in Sweden for more than 10 years now so i don't really know.

And by the way, the director is not exhaugurating in the yelling part since thats very much the culture, and btw, they're in a village and not in a city with 150 businessmen around them judging every move/sound they make, i was one of those kids yelling in the streets at times, just with better circumstances. 10/10, it really took me by the heart!
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A village expecting war, hope and fear around. A kid leader that is followed and loved. A girl that dreams free. Visions of the future coming. An Excellent movie!!
guidulis26 August 2006
I think this is an excellent movie, I'll tell you why: First of all the characters are basically kids, they can tell us how the real life is, how they feel about war, and how to continue living with the idea of war coming soon.. seeing them is extremely moving.. Talking about the technical part of this beautiful and moving film is very well set up, the music, sometimes the silence.. cameras are focused in the right way to show us what is really important, life as they live, real things.. real situations of this kids trying to live in community. The character of Agrin is so beautiful and moving, as well its shocking and sad.. she is so real and has this dream of her jumping the mountains.. so beautiful and real at the same time. Satellite is like a new leader in the community, he has some good skills at repairing satellites and he knows how to understand English.. not only this makes him a great leader but he is concerned about other kids and people from this little village.

Well, i'll try to describe what I felt when watching this excellent picture... admiration, the language (not normal for me, cause I'm Argentine) was very nice listening to it.. I felt alone although I was in the cinema full of people.. I felt love for this little girl Agrin.. (I would be pleased to meet her some time in my life to see her and understand what can she feel)... I felt sad, for those who were suffering.. but basically I felt happy and full of life when I got out of the room, I felt that I was doing things right, that sometime people have to do some good effort to achieve their own objectives and be comprehensive with those that are different.. I had so many hope round me.. I felt very moved and this movie is truly the best I've seen in years!.. Thanks for reading up to here, I'm sorry for my bad English, I was making some effort to express my congratulations for all the movie makers of this film, an excellent picture you Must see!!
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5 Star Movie
jesseny-127 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
One of the best movies I've seen in years. The acting is truly extraordinary. I watched the movie with my nine year old boy and he just assumed it was a documentary, that's how well acted it is. Just captivates you with these wonderful kid characters. The characters in the movie are children and this is no walk in the park and that's the only spoiler I have to say in that it is the saddest movie I have seen since "Life is Beautiful". If you can't deal with sad movies, don't go near this one. This is a tear jerker that frighteningly gnaws at the truth. This is a movie that makes you Think. I read the other posts and they are right on the money. I wish I hadn't watched it with my son though. It's rated PG and the cover at Blockbuster had the rave reviews from critics and all the kids on it too but it's a too deep for kids. Don't miss this one, go rent it. Sorry, but I see no flaws,10 out of 10.
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