Turtles Can Fly

Writer/director Bahman Ghobadi is an Iranian Kurd, and the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein gives him a unique opportunity to look at the bleak lives of Iraqi Kurds. Ghobadi (Marooned in Iraq, A Time for Drunken Horses) frequently focuses on the plight of the Kurds, a minority discriminated up on Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Turtles Can Fly takes place in Kurdish territory in northern Iraq, shortly before the United States invasion. Refugee camps are sprawling, and groups of children are able to hold sway over various issues.

One, Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) leads a large group of children. They hold a surprising amount of sway in the village. They dig up mines and trade them for goods, and install satellite dishes, the only method of getting information from the outside world. Everybody knows that the United States is preparing for war, and a satellite dish is the only (expensive) way to find out when this may happen. Satellite speaks a little English, which makes him all the more important. The elders frequently ask him to translate, not realizing he does not know as much as he thinks he does.

The 'balance of power' shifts when a new boy, Henkov (Hiresh Feysal Rahman) arrives. Henkov is missing his arms from an accident, and supposedly has the power to predict the future. Because of his, many of Satellite's children flock to him. Satellite is more enamored of Henkov's sister Agrin (Avaz Latif), and does everything he can to impress her. The story is secondary, Ghobadi's primary purpose is to spotlight the harsh life that the Kurds leave. As a result, it is a bit light on plot, and very heavy on imagery. Still, Turtles Can Fly is a bit too slight for its own good.

Watching the children, many of them missing limbs, crawling on their hands and knees to find mines is heartbreaking. And children should never be in the position that Satellite and Henkov should not have to worry about the issues they do. Circumstances force them to grow up quickly, and place them in very precarious positions. This is particularly true for Agrin, who has to face some things that no adult should face. Her face contains no trace of childhood, and instead looks hauntingly beyond its years.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Kurdish with English subtitles, Not Rated but would probably be a PG-13, or maybe a PG.

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