Saturday, May 2, 2009

Children of Heaven

Bacheha-Ye aseman; Drama, Iran, 1997; D: Majid Majidi, S: Amir Farrokh Hashemian, Bahare Seddiqi, Mohammad Amir Naji, Nafise Jafar-Mohammadi

Teheran. Boy Ali (9) leaves the shoes of his sister Zahra near a store, but when he returns they are gone. Ali and Zahra thus decide not to tell anything to their parents since they are a very poor family and thus conceive and plan: she will wear his shoes during school in the morning and he will have them during school in the afternoon. Many problems occur since Zahra arrives home late often, either due to a test or because one shoe fall in a sewer, which causes Ali to be late too. He and father make a small fortune as gardeners in some rich man's garden while Zahra discovers the girl who has her shoes, but doesn't do anything. Ali wins in a race contest, but doesn't win hoped prize - new shoes - because it's reserved for the 3rd place.

Nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film, "Children of Heaven" are a gentle, for an Iranian film typically honest and sincere, touching yet also bitter meditative minimalistic drama that implicitly gives a critique of social injustice and class difference. The direction by Majid Majidi is quite colloid and scanty, yet his vision of De Sica's "Bicycle Thief" has plenty of sheer virtues: it's interesting, for instance, how hard it is for Zahra to hide her brother's sneakers during physical excerssice in school since everyone is looking at the feet during jumping, and when she looses one shoe in a canal, it floats with incredible speed. Maybe the ending is slightly sarcastic where Ali is sad because he wasn't 3rd during the racing contest (which would bring him the award of new shoes) but 1st, yet except for that the whole story is so purely humane and honest that it doesn't contain a single shred of cynicism, as if the mentality of the heroes is somehow lost in some good old times when everything was all right. This film has a soul, and it's something that stands out so much that it almost becomes relevant for it's quality. It's a very good children's film for all ages that's never sentimental, where you could only criticize the fact that it didn't explore more the feelings of it's two protagonists.


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