Monday, February 28, 2005

Currently playing at the Angelika

The film "Turtles Can Fly" is not one of those films that seems engineered to tug at your heartstrings at all the right moments, although it can't help but do so at times. After all, it's about impoverished children, many maimed by mines and many of them orphans, caught in the tent-city and refugee-filled no-man's-land that is rural Kurdistan just before the latest war in Iraq.

But it takes its subjects seriously, perhaps -- as some reviewers point out -- depicting their interactions as a microcosm of the larger Kurdish society. And I didn't find myself crying at all. Instead, I found myself cringing at the way some of the characters have given up hope.

But there is enough pluck and energy in many of them, especially the central tech-savvy, leader-of-the-children character nicknamed "Satellite," that it's easier to forgive a somewhat one-sided depiction of the utterly dejected and resigned orphan girl Agrin. Maybe I'm imposing my glossy screenplay ideas on a world where being downtrodden your whole life really does take all will to live out of you. But there's still something that doesn't feel right watching a young girl walk into a pond at daybreak, douse herself in kerosene, light a match and ponder its potential.

The world the film creates is one that reminded me of the Peanuts comic strip -- all the young competition, cruelty and wistfulness is there, with maybe a different flavor of humor now and then. Adults are present, but peripheral -- traders in the black market or inept elders eager for Satellite to get their TV working so they can hear news of the impending war.

After flipping through some of the "forbidden channels" showing Western music videos and the like, the boy tunes in Fox News and images of Bush.

"That's Mr. Bush," he explains to the elders. "The world's in his hands now."

The village officials ask him to translate what the president is saying.

"He says it's going to rain tomorrow," Satellite tells them.

No comments: