‘Turtles Can Fly’, a Kurdish Film by Bahman Ghobadi

One thing that does not make news about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is their debilitating impact on children. ‘Turtles Can Fly‘, (2005) a film made by Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi, brings attention to that inglorious facet of war.

After watching this movie one shudders at the realization of how a whole generation, scarred, scalded, mutilated by war, is growing up in the middle east and other parts of the world.

A group of children, barely adolescents, living on the Iraq- Turkey border eke a living of sorts by collecting and selling mines in that area. Under the leadership of a young, smart alec kid called Satellite- so called because he installs satellite dishes for the villages in that area. Even the village elders call upon Satellite to install dish antennas to watch the impending US attack on Iraq. The bespectacled, jeans wearing Satellite also acts as a translator. Life is interrupted for him when an armless boy of the same age as Satellite comes along with is sister and a small blind child who everyone takes for their little brother. The armless kid can apparently foresee the future and Satellite, after an initial scuffle, comes to look upon him for the news of impending events before the news channels do that. The situation changes when the Americans actually arrive- and bring with them not the life promised on the images on the ‘forbidden’ entertainment channels but tanks and guns, and worse.

Some of the scenes, especially in the middle, are reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s exquisitely laid out, dream like sequences, of a war that is not so much dream- like as it is a nightmare. Needless to say, the movie is extremely disturbing underlining a theme that one always overlooks even as news of suicide bombers and troops and civilians killed each day make headlines.

The full movie is available at youtube, the first part appears below.

Thanks to Shahid Anwar for recommending the film.

Update: I just realized that the subtitles at the youtube version are not in English 😦


Author: bhupinder singh

an occasional blogger

3 thoughts on “‘Turtles Can Fly’, a Kurdish Film by Bahman Ghobadi”

  1. I watched Bahman’s movie a few days ago at the Turku Film Festival in Finland and it touched me deeply. It is a powerful story, so beautifully directed. Everyone should see this movie !!

  2. The trauma of war has been an issue much covered in cinema, but in this film, we are shown the impact that it has on those who are most innocent of all- the children. War from an innocent perspective; yet not a dark comedy- this film has a lot to offer. This also reveals another aspect of this film- the adults in the film are shown as the scared lot. They are always shown hiding, squeaking in their houses; following orthodox practices. It leaves you in a land where war can be smelled, where destruction is not a new addition to the inhabitant’s menu. The adults being dormant, while the kids are enthusiastic is totally justified.

    Prior to this, Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful and a selected handful unforgettable films had also fearlessly covered this nightmarish, inhumane aspect of war. This film hits hard enough to be called a masterpiece. After these 1 hr 37 minutes of brainwash, I stared blankly at the screen for fifteen minutes, amidst a state of pure, and surprisingly prolonged, emotional helplessness. I felt like loosing something… I felt the pain of lost innocence.

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