Thursday, October 20, 2005

Turtles Can Fly Really Flies

I watched Iranian filmaker Bahman Ghobadi's beautiful award-winning 2004 film Turtles Can Fly in conjunction with this week's appearance of Saddam Hussein in Iraqi court, on charges he ordered the massacre of Kurdish Shiite villagers after an attempt on his life.

First impression: Turtles Can Fly is a film, not a movie.

It was the first film to be shot on-location in post-Saddam Iraq. The film is set in the portentous days preceeding the overwhelming American invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is peopled by Kurdish non-actor children of the stark Iraq-Turkish border, who portray orphaned and maimed children forced to fend for themselves by selling land mines they have "gleaned" from their village environs after their parents were killed or jailed by the ruthless dictator.

Turtles Can Fly is the sort of honest offering that stands in stark contrast to the bulk of American releases, whose dimension-challenged characters appear,
even before the print of the trailer is released, on the super-sized cups of corporate fast-food chains, T-shirt fronts, and a hundred other kitchy essential daily non-essentials. Do you not agree it lamentable that much American film-making has all but abandoned the high road of the artistic portrayal of the triumphs and vicissitudes of the human condition in favor of the dumbed-down, crass, and obscene delights of a selfish and pedestrian society? Don't we clamber to the theaters in droves as soon as the booming advertisments command us to, and don't we inhale every last drop of each successive "blockbuster", just as we swill from our corporate half-gallon monopoly soft-drinks and oversalted popcorn buckets? Where is the recreation, much less the art and and class and humanity in that? Isn't our collective zeal for movie-watching a little like picking up a well-mouthed cigar butt from off the sidewalk, lighting it up, passing it around, then rhapsodizing that it is a "most wonderful smoke"?

Turtles Can Fly is the gem you found after you ignored the butt-ends of all those other film offerings.

Mike Baker's fine review of Turtles Can Fly can be found here, at the British DVD Times site.

Better yet, buy the DVD from The Clog Almanac strongly recommends that at the very least you view this film if you haven't already.

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