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Children of Heaven

September 23, 2008

I watched ‘Children of Heaven’ (1997) last night on Star Movies, and was truely blown away by its true simplicity, its very ‘real’ look at the society and its somewhat ironical ways. Its a simple movie, about simple people in simple surroundings without anything extraordinary happening. Throughout the 90 mins i kept expecting some drama – but there was none, and i guess That is the Beauty of this film. The film is based in Iran, directed and scripted by Majid Majidi. This film even won a nomination in the Oscars in 1998 in the category of “Best Foreign Film“, only to lose to a stiff competition put up by “Life is Beautiful”.

Children of Heaven is a beautiful tale which describes the relationship between an impoverished brother and sister, Ali and Zahra, and their loving relationship which at times appears very mature, with their hard-working, yet very loving parents. They are thrust into a difficult circumstance when Ali mistakingly looses her sister, Zahra’s pink sandals, which he had taken to the cobbler to get fixed. They choose to solve their problem themselves, without telling their parents. Ali has a solution. She goes to school in the morning; he attends in the afternoon. They can share a pair of sneakers. Once her day is done, she can rush home and give the sneakers to him. But that is impossible since time is very little for the exchange. At school, Ali discovers a possible solution to the shoe dilemma. Third place in a foot race is a pair of new sneakers (first and second prize are more lucrative, but Ali has no interest in them). All Ali has to do is beat out several hundred children and lose to only two, and his sister will be happy. The last half hour of the movie is truely moving, where Ali tries very hard to stay 3rd but ends up coming 1st, by mistake and feels pathetic, since all he wanted was the new sneakers.

This film is a far cry from the typical ‘children’s film’ made by Hollywood, depicting children in very out-of-the-world, unreal scenerios – to keep the imagination running wild. Children of Heaven is a tender, moving tale of compassion, determination and deep family love – all seen through the eyes of children. Another thing that i liked about the film is that the children – all of age 9 and 7 are so mature when it comes to family and its conditions. They have certain calmness yet some innocence about their actions. Another contrast depiction in the film is when Ali and his father go to Tehran city to look for a day gardner job to earn extra money for the family. They take this ride on a cycle. You can see the sheer ironical connection between the actors and the surroundings – the cycle with its passengers dripping with sweat and yet having that strenght to continue to look for a job, and on the other hand, the large palatial bunglows with security, rude owners and dogs mocking the child and his father. Yet when one family with a lonely kid calls them in coz the kid wants to play with Ali, there is a certian understanding that you can see between the father and son. There are no loud dialogues or music to convey that Ali should play with the child while the father does the work and Ali knows his limits of not wanting the expensive toys of the kid. I could almost feel myself choking up. It was courageous, innocent, powerful and at the same time very sincere.

The movie not only pulls a certain string in your heart, but it also depicts a very powerful contrast between sections of the society, that exists across borders. There is nothing ‘epic’ about the movie or its narratives, but sometimes an inconsequential and intimate story can provide a satisfying emotional payoff. Yet, at some level i feel — is it so ‘real’ that the children are loosing their childhood in today’s world of ‘wants and desires’ and ending up shouldering responsibilities and achieving that mindset at such a young age?

  1. Bubbasamuel permalink
    September 24, 2008 7:49 AM

    yesterday i was too young, impatient to i am too old, dying to be young again. an old 2 line poem of mine. i felt it would be an apt comment on this post. :)keep posting.

  2. Tanu Anand permalink
    September 24, 2008 10:06 AM

    i agree! 🙂 perfect..

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