Monday, June 14, 2010

Children Of Heaven review- Iranian Film

Director – Majid Majidi

Child Actors - Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemain)

                        Zhara (Bahare Seddiqui)

The film starts by showing Ali getting his sister, Zara’s shoes, mended from the cobbler. On his way back with the shoes, he stops at a grocery store to pick up some vegetables. He keeps his sister’s shoes aside and goes about picking the groceries when a blind garbageman picks up the shoes’ unknowingly. After buying the groceries to Ali’s shock he finds the shoes’ missing and searches frantically for it, when the shop owner chases him off as he makes a mess of the groceries arranged in his search.

Upon returning he finds that his mother is arguing with the landlord for not paying the rent for nearly 5 months. Ali goes into his house, where he tells his sister about the shoes and not to tell their parents, since they are not in a financial position to afford a new one now and assures her that he will get it to her as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, proposes an idea and asks Zara to wear his shoes to her school and return it soon after her classes are over so that he could wear it for his school. Ali waits in a by-lane, since he does not want anyone to notice that they are so poor, and after getting the shoes from her runs to school everyday, so that he does not get late.

This ritual goes on for a while and twice he gets caught by the principal, who warns him the first time, but asks him to get out of school for indiscipline the second time and while Ali goes out disappointed, his class teacher informs the principal that he is a bright kid and to let him go, to which the Principal agrees. Zara one day notices another girl in her school wearing her shoes, so she follows the girl to her house. The next day she brings her brother along with her and shows him the house of the girl. While they are hiding, they find out that the girl’s father was a blind garbageman and are poorer then them, so they drop their idea of getting the shoes now (this shows their magnanimity at such a young age).

In Ali’s school, a selection for a running competition is held. In the notice board, Ali finds out that the third prize is a pair of sneakers, so he begs with his physical director to select him, for which the Physical Director declines initially, confirming the selection is over and he is late for it now, but accepts to try his running skills. To the Physical Director’s amazement, Ali clocks a time which exceeded the Physical Director’s expectations and Ali is given the go ahead to participate in the competition on their school’s behalf. This competition is shot in slow- mo as well as in real time. At one point when Ali slows down, he remembers that he had promised his sister a new pair of shoes, and that puts extra strength in his leg muscles and he just runs like his life depended on it and finally comes first. When Ali learns that he came first, he feels really sad that he will not be going to show his sister the new pair of sneakers that he had promised her.

In the next scene, Ali’s father is shown buying a new pair of sneakers. Ali comes home very sad and at his sight, his sister is initially very happy but seeing his face and body language her smile vanishes and she realizes that he could not get the new pair of sneakers. She hears their younger sister crying and immediately runs in with the feeding bottle that she was washing (there are no dialogues in these scenes and that is beauty of it). There are many more beautiful scenes like this which I will not reveal.

This is a film in which the child actors have done such a fabulous job and you will feel your heart beating for them, such is their intense yet natural portrayal. The Director should be congratulated for making such a beautiful film with a big heart. This film was selected for the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 1998, but lost out to Life is Beautiful film (which was a great film, in its own right).

My rating 4/5. Once in a Lifetime film!!!!!

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