Last night, as part of our ongoing film series at Hibbleton Gallery, an Introduction to Iranian Cinema, we watched Bahman Ghobadi’s film “Turtles Can Fly”. The film follows the lives of Kurdish children who live on the Iraq/Turkey border on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2004.
My friend Farshid, who is from Iran, compared the Kurdish people to Native Americans, meaning that they have historically gotten a really bad deal throughout wars and conquests of their homeland. The Kurds are an ancient, nomadic, and mainly peaceful people who have had the misfortune of living on the borders of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. As a people, they have been bombed, gassed, shot, raped, and blown up by land mines. Many of the Kurdish children in the film (who make their meager living by digging up land mines) are missing limbs.
|"Limbless Kurdish boy"|
“Turtles Can Fly” shows the impact of modern warfare on children, and it is utterly shattering. Though the film does not contain any explicit anti-war statements, it raises the burning question: If children are the casualty of our wars, are these wars justified? The answer I came to, as a viewer, is no fucking way. These kids are innocent. They suffer terribly at the hands of distant and menacing powers. And yet, as the title of the film suggests, the children persist and survive despite impossible conditions, conditions that most adults could not bear.
|Kurdish boy surrounded by land mines.|
The director of the film Bahman Ghobadi, is Kurdish himself, and grew up in these conditions. He is the first Kurdish person to ever make a feature film, and now he is internationally renowned (though not very well-known in the U.S.). I am grateful for artists like Ghobadi, who can shine a light on human experiences others may be blind to, and cause us to seriously re-think the far-reaching consequences of our own action, or inaction.