Turtles Can Fly

This is a 2004 Kurdish film made in Kurdistan, Iraq, and is a joint Iraq/Iran/France production.

The story is set mostly in pre-American invasion Iraq, and is about a boy nicknamed “Satellite” who is a whizz with satellite dishes and TV, and the people of his refugee camp rely on him to get news of the upcoming war. He also gets the children of the camp, many of them orphans, to work disarming mines which are sold so they can support themselves.

“Satellite” on right.

He meets a girl, her brother and a blind young boy they are taking care of. The brother lost both of his arms in a mine accident (the actor actually had no arms), and is known to be able to predict the future. The sister resents the young child she is taking care of and wants to abandon him, but the brother will not allow her.

The film just follows the children as they do their best to survive, with the few adults in the story doing little to help, mostly because they are old. Some of the things they have to go through are probably quite accurate to real life, and it is all very depressing. From what I have read, most of the child actors in this were actual refugees, but they were outstanding.

There are no politics in the film, it doesn’t try to make any statements about war or what Saddam did to the Kurdish people, although there is mention of Halabcheh, a town where thousands of people died in a gas attack by Chemical Ali in 1988. Just the story of the children is enough.

Extremely depressing stuff overall, but at the same time it is a well-made and riveting film with brilliant acting from the kids, they all seemed so natural, although of course they had already been through it all in real life. Hollywood blockbusters seem so trite after watching a film like this.

I tried to find out about what the children are doing now, but there is no information at all, apart from Satellite who is now a film maker.

Date watched: December 22nd
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 83

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