Tehran’s byways teem with life in this Iranian crime-caper that blends gritty, Buñuelesque social realism, strong character drama, and spirited storybook style adventure.
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Aladdin meets Dickens in Majid Majidi’s Sun Children, an earthy tale of childhood adversity and ambition that infuses its vérité sensibility with a magical air.
Ali (impressive newcomer Rouhollah Zamani) is the streetwise leader of a band of urchins living a hard-knock existence of child labour and petty crime. Life takes an unexpected turn when local gang boss Hashem (a menacing Ali Nassirian) forces the boys to infiltrate and search the charity funded ‘Sun School’, under whose floors hidden treasure apparently waits. Driven by fear, and a hope born of desperation, Ali throws himself into the treasure hunt with a single-minded focus that blinds him to the slow crumbling of his friendships and world around him.
Cinematographer Hooman Behmanesh (who shot arresting A Dragon Arrives! NZIFF 2016) makes superlative use of light, shade and camera movement to elevate Majidi’s storytelling. Avoiding didacticism, Sun Children intelligently mines issues of friendship, trust, exploitation and systemic poverty, as Ali learns the hard way that sometimes you don’t realise the worth of a thing until it slips from your grasp. — Jacob Powell
“Post-revolutionary Iranian films have often drawn from the well of children’s problems to outflank the censors and score their social critiques. The screenplay written by Majidi and co-scripter Nima Javidi pins its outrage to a swift-moving, high-stakes plot that undercuts sentimentality and the conventions of the exploited-child genre.” — Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter