Turtles Can Fly (2005)

Turtles Can Fly (2005)

A realistic and well-made Kurdish drama that’s absolutely devastating

The Very Best

8.0

Movie

France, Iran
Arabic, English, Kurdish
Drama
2005
BAHMAN GHOBADI
Abdol Rahman Karim, Avaz Latif, Emre Tetikel
98 min

TLDR

As of writing (May 2024), it’s been roughly 20 years since its release. I wish I could say that the world has learned more since then.

What it's about

Kurdish refugee camp, 2003. Thirteen-year-old Soran, known by the camp as Kak Satellite, takes charge of the children to sweep and clear landmines, and to set up the satellite dish so that the camp can watch the upcoming US invasion to take down Iraqi revolutionary Saddam Hussein.

The take

Regardless of where, when, and why war came to be, war inevitably makes children grow up faster than they ought to. Turtles Can Fly depicts one such boy, a thirteen year old refugee nicknamed Kak Satellite whose limited English and resourcefulness transformed him into a leader for the rest of the children as they scrounged for scraps, sweep for landmines, and set up satellites for news. It’s a harrowing experience. Writer-director Bahman Ghobadi depicts it in a grounded, real way, with the Kurdish cast directly re-enacting the same horrors that they’ve gone through the year before, and the same practical nonchalance that they cling to for survival. Regardless of how viewers feel about the Iraq invasion, or other wars with refugee crises, Turtles Can Fly simply asks viewers to see their faces.

What stands out

It’s so painful. Knowing that the cast performed so well because they actually been through the camps like these makes it all the more painful.

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