An Iranian Foreign Film Fails To Promote Real UnderstandingCopyright © 2006 Ed Bagley
Children of Heaven is an Iranian movie with subtitles about a boy who accidentally loses his sister's worn out shoes after being sent to get them repaired, and must share his own worn out sneakers with her in a sort of relay while each attends school at different times during the day.
He bargains with his sister not to tell his father that he has lost her shoes, as the father will beat both of them.
This is a family literally living hand-to-mouth in a one-room rental with no, and I mean no, amenities, except a tea pot and television. There is no visible kitchen, no bathroom (one assumes they share a bathroom in the building), no beds (they sleep on the floor), and no apparent heat. Jeez, this is living in poverty in parts of the war-torn Middle East.
If you were born in America, you may have no idea how fortunate you are to be the one child among every 50 children born into the world who lives in a relatively free, democratic society, in the most prosperous nation on the face of the earth.
We have so much more of everything in America that even our less fortunate people live better than the majority of the people in undeveloped and underdeveloped nations around the world, but back to Iran and these particular children.
The shoe exchange in Children of Heaven goes on for days with predictable results, the boy is continually late for school and reprimanded, his sister longs for a pair of shoes, and she even suffers the humility of seeing one of her classmates wearing her missing shoes (a street vendor inadvertently picked up the repaired shoes while picking up refuse at a vegetable shop).
The same classmate then gets a brand new pair of shoes, and his sister must suffer the indignity of hearing that her old, repaired shoes were thrown away.
Alas, all is not lost, as the boy learns of a 4 kilometer foot race (approximately 2.5 miles), and the 3rd place prize is a pair of new sneakers. He knows he can run fast (he has been unknowingly practicing by having to run each day to school to get there on time) and decides to beg his way into the race, finish 3rd, and give his hard-earned prize to his sister.
Imagine the start of this race among his peers, it looked like the start of the Boston Marathon in America with 10,000+ competitors. The race footage is well done. In the end, the boy does not finish 3rd, he wins the race, but not the sneakers.
Now get this, because this is important: At the end of the story, the father is able to finally buy his daughter a new pair of sneakers, the boy feels like a failure for not winning the sneakers, and his sister is sorely disappointed that he could not get the job done. The film ends on this note.
There is no resolution in this film, it is like I imagined the Middle East culture and mentality all over again, no consensus on anything, no meaningful result to anything, and negative to the end.
If it were not for this terrible ending, this film would have a 3-star rating rather than 2, however, I am not about to reward poor story telling.
Children of Heaven has some touching moments, and is instructive because it reminds us that no matter what the politics are, children are children; and they act like children, everywhere, and in every corner of the world. This film is worth the look, but brace yourself for an unsettling ending.
The postscript to this film from NETFLIX says "Children of Heaven is just that-heavenly." It is absolutely not, despite having some heavenly moments. Be advised that NETFLIX has some descriptions that belie the film's actual presentation.
NETFLIX has lulled me to sleep once too often. I have rented NETFLIX films that are characterized as a "romantic comedy" when, in reality, I have been given a film with two funny scenes and a very heavy dose of disturbing human conflict with raw emotions and passion.
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