Movie Review: Turtles Can Fly

A joint Iran / Iraq production filmed in 2004 and released in 2005, in Kurdish with English subtitles, the movie plays somewhere in the Kurdish area in Iraq near the Turkish border. Desolate mountains, very little green. Refugees live in tent villages. The time is just before the American invasion of Iraq.

If you have an opinion about the Iraq (or Afghanistan) war, you cannot afford not to watch this movie. It should be mandatory for every political candidate or office holder.

The protagonists are children, starting with toddlers to mid teenagers, who are making a living collecting and disarming Saddam’s land mines, and selling or trading them to arms dealers. We see the boy with no arms who is reduced to disarming mines with his lips. Guess how he lost his arms? We see the boy with one leg, who deftly sprints around on one leg and a makeshift cane that serves as the other leg. We see a young girl who, as we find out, has a toddler child from being raped by Iraqi soldiers when she was just a child herself. We see children who should be protected but who are the movers and shakers in their little world, scarred for life, never a childhood, no parents, no guidance, no hope.

When we think about the Iraq war, we think about the more than 4,000 Americans who died there by now, and the tens of thousands who are maimed physically or emotionally. We seldom think about the estimated more than 100,000 Iraqi citizens who have died. How many of them are children?

We see misery and hopelessness that tears out our hearts. We realize that it is no wonder there is an infinite supply of suicide bombers, possible future terrorists, religious fanatics or warriors, when they are forced to grow up like this.

It all comes together and you will never think of an Iraqi, or for that matter an Afghan, or Iranian, the same way.

While we sat in our living rooms for the last 8 years, watching wars on television, mustering the audacity to have an opinion, millions of hapless children have been born in parts of the world where they were damned from the minute they took their first breath. Who rolled the dice that sealed their lot?

Watch ‘Turtles Can Fly’ and then tell me if you changed your opinion about this war.

Rating: ****

One thought on “Movie Review: Turtles Can Fly

  1. 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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