Children Of Heaven


Reviewed by: Funn Lim

June 15, 2004

Rating: five

Origin

Made in Iran

Written/Directed By

Majid Majidi

Cast-Characters
Mohammad Amir Naji .... Ali's Father
Amir Farrokh Hashemian .... Ali
Bahare Seddiqi .... Zahrah
Nafise Jafar-Mohammadi .... Roya
Fereshte Sarabandi .... Ali's Mother
Kamal Mirkarimi .... Assistant
Behzad Rafi .... Trainer
Dariush Mokhtari .... Ali's Teacher
Mohammad-Hasan Hosseinian .... Roya's Father
Masume Dair .... Roya's Mother
Kambiz Peykarnegar .... Race Organizer
Hasan Roohparvari .... Race Photographer
Abbas-Ali Roomandi .... Shoemaker
Jafar Seyfollahi .... Green Grocer
Qolamreza Maleki .... Salt Seller

Disclaimer :
The observations under "Interesting Observation" were written without malice nor contempt. They are merely honest and personal observations made by the author who does not condone nor tolerate racial distrust and disharmony.

Summary

A simple story about this young boy named Ali who lost his little sister's (Zahrah) only pair of shoes and how they shared his only pair of shoes whilst he tried to get her a new pair before his father, a poor man who works in a Mosque, finds out.

Description: Spoilers!

This was a movie with such a simple story-line that it was a great wonder how a country like Malaysia or Hong Kong never thought of it first. It was a stunningly made movie. There were no special effects to go ooh-ahh over but you will feel that way after you finish watching this movie. The performances by the two leads, both young children, were simply amazing. The scenes where they shared Ali's only pair of shoes were both sad and funny at the same time; sad for all the things Zahrah had to do, like rushing out of the school like a Marathon runner and then to exchange her brother's slippers so that Ali could wear those shoes to school, and always being late for class, sad because again of the fact that they were so poor that Zahrah had only one pair of shoes. When Zahrah saw her worn out pink shoes on the feet of another schoolmate, she was mad. She went after the girl, followed her back home, but after seeing that young girl who was as poor as she was and have a blind father, she couldn't bring herself to demand for her shoes. They ended up being friends, but you could see jealousy in Zahrah's eyes every time she saw her own old shoes. In the meantime, Ali entered a running competition after having practised running from home to exchange shoes with Zahrah and running to school before the class starts for one sole reason; to win third place for that one pair of shoes for his little sister. In the end, he won first place and he didn't have the shoes for his disappointed sister, but in the ending scene we saw their father, who had earn some money from his freelancing as a gardener, buying Ali and Zahrah brand new shoes, and you know both of them will be delighted thought we can never get to see that.

Comments

This is a very good movie. And coming from Iran, I was impressed. The storyline may be simple, and you may think that you may not have anything to cheer about or feel angry about, believe me when I say this movie will make you feel a variety of emotions, from shocked, to sad to happiness, to disappointment. I credit all that to the simple, yet extremely powerful story, the excellent direction and the magnificent charisma of the two young leads. They shone and they will draw you into the story. My most favourite scene for this movie is the marathon scene. The fact that Ali had to beg and cried to get a place in the running team was heart wrenching, and when the camera focussed on Ali running, we will cheer and cheer him on when he fell back. There was total silence except for his sister's voice of blaming him for losing her shoes and as he ran, he kept seeing his little sister, carrying her schoolbag running and running to rush him his pair of shoes so that he can go to school was sad. And he ran and ran and realised he was going to get first place and I screamed, "Don't! 3rd place Ali" and Ali ran a little slower and counted, "one, two" and he was third until one young man passed him and he was fourth and he ran harder and harder without thinking.

In the end he won 1st place and got a free trip and his coach was overjoyed. But the tired Ali was silent and he was crying before the cameras. And I cried with him. And when he went home, he couldn't say a word and his sister knew there was no shoes and she walked away disappointed and Ali sat by the fountain, with the goldfish in the pond nibbling at his blistered feet, and he felt he had let his beloved sister down. That was the ending, but we all knew it will be a happy ending when his father comes home with the new pair of shoes, for both of them. And this was the success of this movie; you felt like you were Ali or Zahrah and you will feel deeply for these characters.

Best Performances

In this movie, two young children shone. The good looking "Ali" and the very expressive "Zahrah". Excellent.

The Verdict

Watch it. If you could find the VCD or Video tape, BUY it. This is one movie that all must watch and I see it as the best movie for the year I have watched it (which was 2000) and the best of all the movies I have ever seen. Simply the best.

Interesting Facts

I never thought the streets in Iran could be so wide, so clean and there were bungalows everywhere. Of course Ali's father was really poor, living in the slum area but I never thought Iran changed so much in such short a time. Not so long ago I thought there was war there.

This movie was nominated for Best Foreign Picture, and many other awards but I do not know exactly which award was awarded.

Interesting Observation

This movie was made by the same director who made a very simple story about a young girl who lost her money which was intended to use for the purchase of goldfish and how she then cajoled, lied, cheat, played tricks to get what she wants; goldfish for free. I do not know the title, but it was the same little girl that played Zahrah. And the ending scene where Ali sat by the fountain, the goldfish nibbling his blistered feet, I have a feeling this is like part 2 of an installment about the adventures of this young girl. Could be you know.

I always have this perception that in hard-core Muslim countries, girls are not wanted. Not respected and are merely property to some men. But this movie changes that archaic view. Zahrah is adored by her father, and especially her brother. That little girl that has Zahrah's shoes is loved by her blind father. Though women, even young girls, have to wear "tudung" or scarves to cover their hair, this movie generally shows Iran's treatment of girls in a very good light. They may be poor, life may be hard, but the children are well loved. Perhaps the world is changing. But did you know that in most Muslim countries women are not allowed to go out alone, sit next to men, reveal their faces or even drive? But in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein territory, women are allowed to drive and in Turkey as a tourist you can sleeveless shirts. But in more extreme Muslim regimes like Afghanistan, I am sure you have read about women being stoned to death just because her knees was revealed, even by accident, or being killed just because they looked or talked to a passing male stranger asking for directions. I realised it's not the religion but the people using religions and so called Honour that gave Muslim religion a bad name. Malaysia is a Muslim country, all Malays have to be Muslim, if you marry a Muslim, you have to be Muslim and adopt the surname Abdullah(though I hoped that perhaps we may choose the surname we want like maybe Mahathir), and when you die you must be buried according to Muslim rites. Though we have our extremists, in terms of political parties and thinking, but the problem is not the religion but the differences in races. there is no denying the fact that Malays are given more privileges and Chinese and Indians are left to fend for themselves, in everything.

It is a fact that Muslims hold all high positions and that for Chinese to hold such a position, we must have excellent family background and capabilities. It is even true to say that Chinese had to earn their way to everything, and therefore a successful Chinese is truly successful in terms of finance and emotions. Sometimes I could feel that for my colour, things are so much harder but not impossible. That made Chinese strive harder, like in the US and that is why we are the best. It's all hard work. And I don't even think until the day I die I'll see a Chinese PM, and I am truly in fear that if our economy does not recover, we might be the next Indonesia as only an unhappy and deprived nation will have thoughts that tend to be racist and act on it as well. But Malaysia as a Muslim country is a very lenient country and frankly I love my country, and I can never imagine being anywhere else, for all its faults. But I do feel disappointed that Malays are automatically considered Bumiputras (meaning children of the land, the original occupant so to speak) whilst we Chinese, Indians, Singhs, Portuguese, who have been born and bred here, who are truly Malaysian in our thinking and the way we talk are not given such a status. Sometimes that makes me feel like an outsider and I am not. I hold a Malaysian passport.

Recently there were some applications and plans by some party to abolish the affirmative action for the Malays and they are the majority mind you. There was a big issue and speeches were made and that we were advised to disrupt the peace of the country. I do wonder what is so wrong with equality amongst equals? Aren't we one big family? Why is it that the demand for a recognition of just that is seen as disruptive and yet the denying of equal status as peaceful? I've met some really nice Malays, and I've nothing good to say about our Chinese men but at times like the above, I feel like I am a child that is not loved but needed by the family to hold everything together.

Why 5?
The best movie I have ever seen on any subject which I feel justifies the full marks.

A Note
This is the same review you may find in E-Buzz Serial Database, first posted on March 2001.

Screenshots:
http://www.imdb.html


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