Lakposhtha hâm parvaz mikonand (Turtles Can Fly) (2004) 



Director:  Bahman Ghobadi. 

Starring:  Soran Ebrahim (Satellite/Soran), Avaz Latif (Agrin), Saddam Hossein Feysal (Pashow), Hiresh Feysal Rahman (Hengov), Abdol Rahman Karim (Riga), Ajil Zibari (Shirkooh).

Iran-Iraq production. 

tragedy in Iraq before and during Iraq-America War


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

A sad, but good movie.  Kurdistan, Iraq on the Turkish border a few weeks before the Iraq-US war.  A young girl Agrin throws herself off a cliff to her death.

Flashback.  A refugee tent city.  Soran (better known as Satellite) installs satellite dishes in the villages in the area.  He is watching as villagers on the hill are trying to adjust their television antennas to receive better reception, but nothing seems to work. One of the villagers laments:  "Look what Sadam has done to us.  We have no water, no electricity, no schools.  Now they won't let our TVs work to see when the war will start."

Satellite is a big man among the children because he arranges the work for them in the owners' fields removing land mines.  He loves his job as boss and head man for the children and sees himself as a kind of benevolent dictator.  (Many of the children have been maimed by the mines.  Many are missing a leg or a leg and an arm or both arms.)

Satellite has noticed the young refugee Agrin.  But the pretty but sad Agrin pays little to no attention to Satellite.  Her parents were killed by Saddam's soldiers and she herself was horribly raped.  Her brother, Hengov, has lost both his arms to a land mine. 

Satellite suggests that the village chip in and buy a satellite dish.  Someone says it is prohibited, but in reality only some channels are prohibited, not satellite dishes.  An Iranian doctor is looking for a young orphan boy who can predict the future.  Satellite thinks this is Hengov.   Satellite is able to buy a satellite with a combination of land mines and cash from the village. 

Satellite taunts and challenges Hengov who does his own thing.  Hengov gets mad and head-butts Satellite giving him a bloody nose. 

Satellite and the other children install the satellite.  A group of adults from the tent city gather nearby.  They want to know what the latest news is about the coming war.  Satellite tells them to go home to their tents; they will announce any news over the mosque speaker. 

Satellite knows a little English and the elders depend on him to help with a bit of translation in order to understand what is going on in their world.  President Bush appears on the news channel and Satellite says "The world is in his hands." 

Another job the children do is to unload empty artillery shell casings and stack them in huge piles. Satellite learns through his assistants that Hengov has said that the children should stop unloading a particular truck.  Believing that Hengov can see the future, Satellite evacuates his crew, while other children stay to work.  There is an explosion (possibly from a shell casing that was not empty) on the truck and many children are injured. 

Agrin is desperate to leave the tent city.  Her brother keeps saying that they will leave soon.  She wants to leave the little boy they found behind, but Hengov feels protective of the little boy.  He rejects her repeated appeals to leave the small boy behind. 

The war begins with the Americans!

The depressed and desperate Agrin takes the little boy out into the hills.  She ties one end of a rope to the boy's leg and the other to a tree and leaves him behind.  But suddenly the boy is spotted in a nearby mine field.  Satellite carefully enters the mine field in order to get the boy out.  Near to the boy, Satellite ignites a mine.  The boy is safe, but Satellite injures his left foot and is laid up for awhile.  He now has to use crutches. 

Saddam's statue is toppled in Baghdad.  The refugees are coming back to the city.  The Americans arrive in tent city.  Satellite learn that the American soldiers have taken the satellite dish up the hill and are watching TV.  Many of the kids are up there with them watching the prohibited channels. 

Finding that the little boy is back in her tent, Agrin takes him out to the local pond.  She ties him with one end of the rope and ties the other end to a large rock.  She then throws the rock into the pond.  (We don't see it, but she throws the child into the pond.)  She then walks over to the edge of a cliff, removes her shoes and throws herself off. 

Hengov has a bad dream about the little boy being drowned.  He awakens and finds that the boy and Agrin are gone.  He starts for the pond.  Satellite is already there, crying.  Hengov dives into the pond but it is too late. 

Hengov looks for his sister shouting out her name.  He finds her slippers at the edge of the cliff. 


This is one of those realistic or neo-realistic films that educate and move the audience by presenting an ugly reality, as well as the suffering of those trapped in the terrible situation.   The child actors were really good.  They did such a good job presenting the horror of their situation.  There is horror, but there is still a little of that childhood innocence, or perhaps naiveté, remaining and the actors present both qualities. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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