Wordless Wednesday urges you to fall into the magical harrowing world of Turtles Can Fly
What happens when you get a call from someone asking you to see a movie that turns out to be the best you have ever seen? So that it joins your list of those 100 movies to see before we die?
This happens when too many recent choices on Netflix and Prime have put you off the silver screen and you have finished reading many good books. You have also planted several sexy silver and rainbow painted begonias in all the empty pots waiting to be filled up with colour.
Your neighbor has begun to gaze enviously at your Rexies and you know she is going to wheedle you for some of them very soon.
But then someone calls up to urge you to watch a film called Turtles Can Fly. You discover it on You Tube and though it is late at night, you find that you cannot stop watching it. You are horrified, entranced, trapped and throbbing with despair as you watch it and wonder how you could have missed one of the world’s most stunning movies which came out in 2004?
It leads you into this bleak and chilling Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqui-Turkish border on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. You see far too many children in this frighteningly God forsaken hell hole that has been brutally vandalized by war’s pitiless claws. Most of the children, too many of them, are damaged, maimed, orphaned or otherwise wounded.
The amazing caretaker of them all is 13 year old Satellite, (Soran Ebrahim) so nicknamed because he is good at installing dishes and antenna for local villagers hungrily wanting news of Saddam Hussein. The kids and the elders are also impressed with Satellite’s dubious knowledge of English! They listen eagerly as he assures all of them how their lives would change for the better, once the American soldiers arrived.
Satellite organizes the scary but necessary sweeping and clearing of the minefields in this war torn zone, recruiting the children daily for this heartbreaking chore for which they earn a pittance when they bring back undetonated mines. Many of them have lost an arm or a leg, or even almost a life, while doing this.
Then a young, silent, orphan girl named Agrin (Avaz Latif) arrives to this camp with her 13 year old brother Hengov, (Hiresh Feysal Rahman) who has lost both hands to mines. But he still works, using his mouth to dig out the mines and also turns out to be an eerily accurate astrologer who can predict the future. Agrin carries around a half blind toddler named Riga (Abdol Rahman Karim)who might be her younger brother…..or not….
Satellite is smitten and tries hard to impress her by helping her with many chores but Agrin lives in a far off place where war has taken her so pitilessly that she can never return from there…..
This 97 minutes of total heartbreak and hopelessness is the most harrowing experience you can ever have as you watch thousands of war’s most damaged children coping, surviving, playing, laughing, making us laugh, as they take each day as it comes, just hoping that America will change everything for the better!
The film has won 12 or even more international awards for its soul searing very disturbing anti war poem to peace which not only makes you weep but also astounds you with the awesome acting by the very young children, all of them chosen from the devastated war zones.
While Agrin is perhaps the most haunting of the lot, like an ache that will never go away, Riga and Hengov too are agonizing. Hengov lost both his hands while working in the minefields. The exquisite music by Hossein Alizadeh adds to the power of this traumatic tale.
Then you find the story on the making of this masterpiece and you realize how much work, love, empathy, and unending courage created it! One reviewer has said about the director and writer of Turtles can Fly, Bahman Ghobadi that he makes the saddest movies in the world, to hold you utterly in trance!
This is very true, because I was shaken by this icy harrowing pitiless dustbin in the world’s warehouse where it has slyly dumped its load of childhood like war’s dirtiest disease, with no remedy or cure anywhere in sight. So many years later, war is still winning everywhere!
I don’t know whether to thank Bahman Ghobadi for treating me to such stunning cinema that I am unable to watch almost anything on Netflix or Prime that stands up to this gem, or to scold him for giving me several sleepless nights as I agonise and grieve over war’s bestiality.