Can a turtle fly

Turtles can fly

Lakposhtha ham parvaz mikonand / Turtles can fly

In the middle of the wild mountain landscape in the Kurdish settlement area in Iraq, near the Turkish border, a young girl stands on the edge of a rock: a beautiful, sad face, her gaze turned away from the world somewhere into the distance, her feet feel their way closer and closer to the abyss. No matter how much the spectators want it, wings cannot be seen on the girl. When she repels, she leaves this world forever. But what kind of world is it that 14-year-old Agrin no longer wants to live in? The camera wanders over the mountains and the bizarre natural beauty is broken by a gloomy-looking collection of old war equipment. In the midst of the rubble is a refugee camp in which a group of orphans around a boy with oversized glasses, whom they call a satellite, are trying to find support in life and give him meaning.

Childhood in war

Many of the children are marked by the effects of the war. What you see are missing limbs, but how things are inside can only be guessed at. The children earn their living by digging mines in the farmers' fields and selling them at the market. The youth satellite is something of a beacon of hope for the children for whom the war has never really stopped. In the midst of all the desolation, the boy has retained an amazing optimism. This gives him the strength to organize the group and to let the desolation be forgotten for at least a few moments. The Kurdish children in Iraq never really had a chance to get to know peace in their lives. They were directly affected by the long-lasting fighting between Iraq and Iran, they were threatened by Turkish attacks, they witnessed bloody clashes between rival groups of their own people and they were systematically evicted from their homes and murdered by the Saddam Hussein regime.

Realistic illusions

In spring 2003 - at this time the film is set - the impending invasion of American troops is linked to the expectation that the fate of the population would improve. Thanks to its contacts in the market, satellite has a certain information advantage over the others. America appears to him as a promised land and from this vision he draws his optimism. It shines so strongly that it becomes a kind of messiah even for the old people of the camp, who have already more or less resigned. When they jointly buy a TV dish so that they can receive foreign programs, satellite is appointed as interpreter, although he, too, cannot understand the foreign language. But with the concrete TV images, the boy's visionary ability seems to be lost.

Visions and nightmares

Looking ahead to the future is done in a depressing way by another boy. Hengov, who has lost both arms, has only recently been in the camp with his sister Agrin and her blind baby. There is no bright future for him. The siblings have had terrible things behind them. Her village had been attacked by Saddam's troops, her parents killed and Agrin raped. The experience that traumatically haunted the children is indicated in a flashback. Agrin's lost gaze is thus given an explanation and her repeated efforts to expose the unwanted child somewhere can be explained from these contexts.

Disillusioned and desperate

It is Hengov who repeatedly takes responsibility for the little nephew and ultimately fails just like the satellite. This fell in love with the strange girl. But Agrin's soul is already broken. When the blind toddler got lost in a minefield, the satellite was able to save it, but was seriously injured in the process. Even this self-sacrificing act of the boy does not give Agrin the courage to face life. Apparently this only makes her desperation even more hopeless. She drowns the child and jumps into the abyss. A little later, American troops arrive at the camp. But these are obviously not the representatives of the promised land dreamed up by satellite. Like machines of war, they pass the wounded without a look. The children go in a different direction with the feeling that it is more likely that Hengov will be right with his premonitions.

Hope for peace

Bahman Ghobadi does not rely on a happy ending that runs counter to the real political realities of the Middle East. He does not want to create illusions, but rather to shake up the viewers to work to ensure that the children in the Kurdish settlement areas, whom he depicts in almost documentary fashion, are given a chance in life. He treats his protagonists very lovingly. He keeps the children's gaze and suggests - sometimes in a humorous way - that they are remarkable and even admirable people. In the midst of a world of weapons, satellite symbolizes the hope for the children that they could have if only they were given peace. Agrin, on the other hand, in her silent despair, is the expression of any battered creature that is powerless at the mercy of the merciless power struggles of political interests. Agrin could also grow wings on the rock with which she could fly into a happier future. But that would require the strength of many people. By suggesting such a wish, the film exudes a touching, optimistic gesture despite all the hardship shown.
Author: Klaus-Dieter Felsmann, May 1st, 2005

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