Turtles Can Fly

Directed by Bahman Ghobadi

The characters in this film from Iranian writer-director Bahman Ghobadi, have to shout to be heard. There are several reasons why: their remote Kurdish village is surrounded by vast hills and dense sky; they’re a marginalized ethnic minority; but mostly, one suspects, it’s because they’re children, and no one will pay attention to them otherwise.

This last circumstance, though, is due for reversal. As the American invasion approaches, and teachers and religious elders are rendered obsolete by the swift and violent changes afoot, it’s the multitude of native and refugee kids that emerge in their place. They’re led by Satellite, so-called because of his aptitude with satellite dishes, crucial for gathering information on the impending war. In his craving for recognition and love for all things “American” — including (mistakenly) French-Algerian soccer god Zinedine Zidane — Satellite is positioned as the new voice of a people desperate to be seen.

Although Ghobadi has expressed a distaste with the West equal to his loathing for Saddam, little of that vehemence comes through here. The most uplifting moment of the film is the sight of American helicopters showering the hills with leaflets; if our nation’s Head Cheerleader were to see it, he’d likely glow with self-satisfaction. But maybe, just maybe, we might learn something about the next generation of Iraqis (portrayed here by nonprofessionals, many mutilated by land mines), and about the nature of the people whose lives we’ve inserted ourselves into. Maybe then they wouldn’t need to shout all the time.

Opens February 18


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