Screened as part of NZIFF 2005
This latest dispatch from behind the headlines by Iranian Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi, (A Time for Drunken Horses, Marooned in Iraq), is a boisterous mêlée of comedy, farce, cruelty and tragedy. In a Turkish/Iraqi border refugee camp, scrambling hordes of orphaned and injured children await the US invasion. The go-getter protagonist ‘Satellite’ is a kid with an eye for the main chance, bawling instructions at his armless lieutenant and other kids, fast-talking the camp elders, constantly on the hustle and in a rush. An eerily beautiful girl with the blank expression of someone permanently in shock appeals to the gentler side of his nature, but she seems an irretrievably unknowable figure, trying to shake off a small child who may or may not be her son, but who follows her like a little goose. Eventually the Americans arrive, boldly entering a volatile, tragic situation which they cannot possibly understand. This astounding immersion in a wild world of children is one of the year’s indelible movie experiences.
“Turtles Can Fly is the most powerful film to come from the Middle East since [Ghobadi’s] last one, A Time For Drunken Horses. He documents life at its toughest with devastating clarity – few other film-makers would show us a boy with no arms unearthing a mine with his teeth – but he never forgets that hardship exists in the same world as humour and deep blue skies. As in A Time For Drunken Horses, it’s the resourcefulness and courage of the children that make it so moving.” — Nicholas Barber, The Independent