Turtles Can Fly aka Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004) Iraqi – Iranian Movie on Children During Wartime

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Occasionally I’m tempted to stop watching war movies. After all, it’s hardly ever cheerful. But there is a huge difference between “not cheerful” and “utterly depressing”. And while combat movie’s are rarely cheerful, they are often not utterly depressing. On the other hand movies focussing on the way common people, and especially children, are affected by war, are often extremely depressing. Among all these depressing movies on the fate of the civilians the Iraqi-Iranian movie Turtles Can Fly, might be the saddest I’ve ever seen. While it’s an excellent film, it’s almost unbearably bleak.

The film starts with a small girl committing suicide. She jumps from a cliff. The story then rewinds and we get to know why she did it.

Somewhere near the Turkish border, just before the war in Iraq breaks out, a group of people live in some houses close to a refugee camp. The elders of the village hire a young boy to buy and install a satellite dish. They want to know if war is coming. The boy is funny, entrepreneurial, and clearly relishes being the only one who knows something about technology and a few English words. He’s maybe 12 or 14 years old (sorry I’m bad at judging the age of children) and runs many small businesses. One of them consists in having other children collect mines which he then sells on the local markets. The whole area is a huge minefield and collecting them is vital because as long as they are on the fields, the farmers cannot work.

Many of these children who collect mines are missing limbs from the one or the other unlucky encounter. The film maker used only children with real deformities and missing limbs which adds authenticity and makes watching it even more harrowing.

“Satellite”, as they call the young boy, falls in love with one of the refugee girls. A very pretty girl who is there without parents but with her older brother who has lost both arms and a small child who has a problem with his eyes. She is the girl who will commit suicide and to learn her story was almost too much.

While there are some funny scenes dedicated to “Satellite” and his business, I’ve rarely seen such a bleak movie. The poverty of these people is extreme. They live in the cold and the rain, there are hardly any trees or buildings, just some huts and tents and a lot of mud. Their situation has a lot to do with former wars. They are surrounded by danger and helpless. Without a proper system of information they are at the mercy of everyone. They never know what hits them or why.

I wasn’t enjoying watching Turtles Can Fly but I was glad I did. This movie is bleak, depressing and heartbreaking but at the same time, it’s very good. The young actors are astonishing, the message is eloquently anti-war.

Here’s the trailer

And the full movie

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The Killing – Season 2 (2009)

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Strictly speaking The Killing 2 isn’t a war movie but since I reviewed Homeland I might as well review The Killing too. I watched season I first and because I thought it wasn’t bad at all, I went and got season 2 without knowing anything about the topic. Sarah Lund is a pretty unconventional detective that’s why she loses her job at the end of season 1 and is sent away from the capital to some frontier post.

When lawyer  Anne Dragsholm is found dead at a WWII memorial, her husband is arrested. The chief inspector has a feeling it can’t have been the husband and despite everything that has happened in series 1, he calls on Sarah Lund and asks her to come back to Copenhagen. Together with detective Strange, she is to look into the case.

At the same time Raben, an ex-soldier held at a detention facility, escapes and a young politician is made minister of justice. Soon after this, two other ex-soldiers are killed and other murders follow. The young politician is also looking into the case as it is possible that Islamic terrorists are at work.

Raben served in Afghanistan and after a few days of investigation it’s clear for Sarah Lund that he knew Anne Dragsholm and the dead soldiers. Very possibly something happened in Afghanistan which led to the killings.

If you are familiar with season 1 you know that Sarah Lund is unconventional but extremely clever and determined. She doesn’t leave any stones unturned. She even flies to Afghanistan looking for traces of a mysterious officer who is said to have killed civilians.

Like in the first series there are numerous red herrings, twists and turns, many suspects and the end is unexpected.

The season plays in a political and military environment and touches on personal and political themes. The tone is bleak and melancholic, the story gripping and the characters are all flawed and complex. This series is about more than just solving a murder, it includes sociological and political themes, portraits of dysfunctional families and a lot more.

I really liked this season. Much more than the longer season 1. I recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers and to those who like movies with military themes.