“Turtles Can Fly”

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“Turtles Can Fly”, a film written and directed by Bahman Ghobadi occurs in the days leading up to America’s war two against Iraq, in a small hamlet and refugee camp on the edge of Turkey and Iraq (Ghobadi n.p).  It is a movie that we need to watch as it is significant in our day to day life experiences. It’s a film that teaches us much about the real life. Furthermore, it is important we don’t in any way miss this significant, powerful and prophetic movie about these children who lived in a pathetic environment in the camp where there was no water, electricity and other important human needs.

To exclusively understand this movie, we all must evaluate what we mean by children’s cinema. This is an attractive movie set in Iraq and mainly deals with the fallout from both liberators and dictators on the torn lives of children living in refugee sites. In an expatriate site just next to the Turkish border in Kurdish Iraq in the year 2003, a thirteen-year-old boy by the name Soran Ebrahim but was nicknamed Satellite becomes the leader of an assorted gang of children of whom many of them have lost limbs to landmines. This boy was clever enough in that he discovers a satellite dish for a village of terrified people who need to know when the US will launch its attack on Iraq. Once he fixes it, the governor and the elders need Satellite to interpret the news for them and also block out all the pictures of sexy women in music videos. Soran Ebrahim says that he was signed up to set the dish and nothing more. When he was asked to translate the English, Ebrahim says that it is going to rain the next day (Ghobadi n.p).

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One of the main significance of the movie is to identify the possible hopes, feelings, and fears of refugee children forced to leave their abodes against their will. The movie also helps us to develop knowledge and understanding of democracy, system of justice, and skills in communication, understanding legal and human rights, and responsibilities and working with others.  This is a movie that motivates children and other adult people for the big role that these young children play in the movie (Ghobadi, n.p).

In most of our culture and socially, children are no expected to engage in any war, but in these film, we see children being the main characters. This movie reminds people that their humanity should never die but to always endeavor in helping one another socially. It’s a movie about a tough life in the society where kids are in charge of adults, and more importantly, they seem to be mature than them. In the film, there are no adult characters of any significance (Ebert n.p). The only grown-ups characters are the village elders, useless worrywarts, a load of cranky and the several shady arms merchants satellite does business with, who care nothing but bargainers. It is also imperative to understand that in the movie, there’s no sense of traditional family structure for the lost children of this marginal world, this infertile, unforgiving land with its veiled perils, its artifacts of mishaps past; there’s no kind of power anywhere, apart from the soldiers on the other side of the borderline, which the children like to joke until they fire off their arms.  In this film, there is a certain irony in the story to the elders’ concern over the coming attack. They fear some awful thing which is about to befall them, failing to understand that the earth-shattering event has already happened,  that the camp and the village are filled with kids whose parents and relatives have been killed, and the society has already been torn into a million pieces.

One of the main themes evident in the movie is justice (Ebert n.p). After their parents we killed, the children had to look for justice as to why their parents and relatives were killed. This is a movie that talks all about the real-life experiences that we go through. It is even ironical that children are mostly involved in the war as the main characters instead of the adult people in the society. These children live in a refugee camp where they face a lot of challenges like lack of clean water and basic human needs.

This movie can be related to the Rwandan Genocide which led to the death of many people in the country. This war affected the lives of many children and other people in Rwanda in that many of the children were left homeless and no parents and relatives in that many of them were killed (Rosenberg n.p). This was a war that occurred due to ethnicity between the Tutsis and the Hutus. Ethnicity is one of the factors that motivated violence to continue for many years following independence in the country. In 1973, an armed group connected major General Juvenal Habyarimana, a moderate Hutu, in power. Around 1990, militaries of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, comprising commonly of Tutsi refugees, attacked Rwanda from Uganda (Linda 150).

The mass killings in Rwanda spread in a faster way from Kigali to the rest of the nation leading to about 800000 innocent people slaughtered over a period of three months. This actually lead to a lot of problems in Rwanda in that many people lived in fear and others even went to the extent of fleeing the country to other neighboring nations such as Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Many of the children left by their parents due to death had to stay in refugee camps because they had no one to take care of them. More than 2 million people of which many of them were mainly Hutus crowded into refugee homes in Congo which was then called Zaire and other neighboring countries (Rosenberg n.p). This was unspeakable violence that was never witnessed again in any part of Africa and in the world at large. Thousands of children were victims of horrific rape and brutality. Additionally, many of them were forced to commit atrocities. The impact of the war simply cannot be overstated as this was one of the worst killings. In the movie “Turtles Can Fly” the situation of the children was such. Their mothers and fathers were brutally killed, and so many of them were left with no caretakers and had to stay in the refugee camps for help. Their relatives properties were all destroyed leaving them with nothing to keep on their lives up (Linda 170).

One of the other best ways of understanding this movie well is to compare it to classical Greek tragedy (Struck n.p). This is because, in some sense, the characters in the Greek disaster are children at the start of civilization. It is also another good real-life situation that can be related to this film and fits it well thus one can understand it clearly and in a better way. To me, “Turtles Can Fly” is a classical film in that the conditions it brings to us and the future it gives about our children. It is a movie that will always keep affecting the lives of many, engulfing the whole society that we live in and even the children who will watch it. The discourses provide a clue of it as they are satirical. It is a film that actually moved me to think beyond myself, my material targets and instant needs.

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In the Oedipus Rex, a Greek play, Sophocles generally took a legend that was known well and strengthened it for his Athenian audience by highlighting qualities they held dear: self-assuredness, courage, and love for their city (Fort and Kates n.p). In this play of a gentleman versus unstoppable fate, Sophocles used dramatic irony to promote and further develop viewers’ interest: they tell how the play will come to an end, enjoying the irony of the words vocalized by the characters, who do not know how the play will end (Struck n.p). In the movie “Turtles Can Fly” irony is also clearly evident in that instead of adult people participating in the war, we see that children are the main characters. We see that children are in charge of adults and more importantly they seem to be more mature than the older people.

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  1. Alice Buchanan Fort and Herbert S. Kates “Oedipus Rex.” TheatreHistory.com, 1935, www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/oedipus001.html.
  2. Roger Ebert “Turtles Can Fly Movie Review & Film Summary (2005) | Roger Ebert.” Movie Reviews and Ratings by Film Critic Roger Ebert | Roger Ebert, 2005, www.rogerebert.com/reviews/turtles-can-fly-2005.
  3. Ghobadi, B. “The Film Sufi: “Turtles Can Fly” – Bahman Ghobadi (2004).” The Film Sufi, 2004, www.filmsufi.com/2008/10/turtles-can-fly-bahman-ghobadi-2004.html.
  4. Melvern, Linda. The Rwandan Genocide. Verso, 2004.
  5. Peter T. Struck “Greek & Roman Mythology – Greek Tragedy.” Department of Classical Studies, 2000, www.classics.upenn.edu/myth/php/tragedy/index.php?page=sophocles.
  6. Jennifer Rosenberg “A Short History of the Rwandan Genocide.” ThoughtCo, 2017, www.thoughtco.com/the-rwandan-genocide-1779931.
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