Middle Eastern Film Festival: Turtles Can Fly
May 8, 2013 - 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Turtles Can Fly (2004), a film by Bahman Ghobadi
This riveting and heart-breaking Iranian film is dedicated by the filmmmaker to “all the innocent children in the world — the casualties of the policies of dictators and fascists.” In a refugee camp near the Turkish border in Kurdish Iraq in 2003, a 13-year-old boy nicknamed Satellite has become the leader of a motley gang of children, many of whom have lost limbs to landmines. He finds a satellite dish for a village of frightened people who want to know when the United States will launch its attack on Iraq. Set against the miserable living conditions in the refugee camp, which has no electricity and no running water, are the images coming over the satellite of the wealth and power of the West. The landmines the children collect from the fields to sell to the U.N. or to arms merchants can explode at any moment, and the best ones, says Satellite, are “made in America.” In war zones around the world, even for years after the end of combat operations, these weapons continue to take lives and limbs, ugly and dangerous imports from the supposedly free world.
In one of the most telling scenes, American helicopters fly over the refugee camp. The villagers and refugees have fled to a hillside where they are trying to look like trees so they will not be bombed. The Americans drop leaflets saying, “We will make this country a paradise. We are here to take away your problems. We are the best in the world.” For a while, Satellite and his assistants truly believe them. He advises the children, “There’s money in ‘Hello’ these days.” But the real truth teller is not on television or in the propaganda floating down from the sky. It is in the prophecies of Hangao, the armless boy who loves his sister and the blind boy and is helpless to save them. The shattering closing events in this incredibly moving film include an act of compassion by Satellite which costs him dearly and a touching gift from Shirko — a souvenir from the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. This is an important, powerful, and prophetic film.