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To see or not to see
A parental dilemma on Bahman Ghobadi's "Turtles Can Fly"

March 3, 2005

Despite the cynical title "Turtles Can Fly", we asked our teenagers if they would like to join us in seeing this latest movie by Bahman Ghobadi [See: "The heirs of wars"]. They preferred skate boarding and online chatting over spending an evening with "boring" parents. Since they promised not to waste all their time on "prohibited" sites, we let them have their choices, so they let us have ours.

Although the movie is an educational and philosophical master-piece, I was not disappointed that the kids had chosen a more cheerful activity for their weekend. It reminded me of "The Blind Owl" by Hedayat, a "prohibited" book by parents for severe hopelessness of its depressed, alcoholic, psychotic, and suicidal main character! There's no doubt that neither Hedayat nor Ghobadi wish to spread hopelessness, rather they intend to remind the public of the suffering and challenges of some of fellow human beings.

The purpose for this writing is to discuss whether children should see this movie after describing a personal impression on the main characters.

The movie is played by ery talented children. Surrounding Agrin, a teenage mother and symbol of a motherland, are few teenage boys who reminded me of Plato's three classes of a well functioning state, the guardians, the artisans, and the warriors. The introverted Hangao represents the wise, patient, and supporting guardian who has lost both of his arms due to his life circumstances, yet he uses his teeth not only to make a living but to neutralize dangers threats.

While Hangao's life is run by reason, emotions play an important role in the daily life of Sherko and Pasheo, the loyal and obeying artisans; they are content with their social role, follow orders, and takes charge whenever they are expected to serve the people, without many expectations.

The extroverted and well rounded Satellite is the courageous warrior, who is tactful and adaptive. He makes connections, solves conflicts, and even purchases weapons; it is not quite clear if he needs guns for self defense or to fulfill a masculine wish. He not only orders others to do whatever they can, but also takes his fair share of responsibilities to help his community; he even put his own life in jeopardy to rescue the life of Agrin's blind son.

The main character, Agrin, symbolizes the suffering motherland that has been the victim of an assault by invaders. The result is Agrin's carrying a blind child, Rega, resembling an imposed identity which she can not accept as her own. Rega has his own internal beauty and a calming smile, yet to Agrin he is often an unwanted burden. She attempts to abandon him so he can end up under the care of those whom she thinks he belongs.

However, unexpected events and a strange motherly affection prevent this from happening until an accident causes Rega to drown. Agrin's suffering only increases. She hasn't had any access to support, knowledge, and guidance and remains hopeless. The previously ignorant and arrogant heroic rescuers regain their sense of humanity and arrive at the land of Agrin, unfortunately only after she has taken her own life.

Considering Agrin's suicide, parents might list the "Turtles Can Fly" among the "prohibited" movies for their children. However, some parents might point out that the real motherland of Agrin, despite denial of her identity and becoming the victim of assault and aggressive behavior of her invading neighbors has never given up and always cherished life. Human being is usually resistant to restriction but welcomes choices. Those whose choices have been respected often respect other people's choices.

The teenagers in the movie have already tasted liberty and started watching "prohibited" music channels with their rescuers; with such an exposure likely they won't buy into unreasonable restrictions anymore! If the children decide to see this movie and parents remain anxious about its depressive effect, they still have the option to combine it with "Jeyan" (Life), a movie by Rosebiani, which reflects a more lively and hopeful version of life in Agrin's motherland.

On a last but not least important note, we are now in the month of March, which has been historically an eventful month for Agrin's land. Despite their sorrowful history, these people make the 21st of March, the first day of spring, an agrin (fiery) day as a symbol of energy, change, and hope for a new beginning each year.

On this day many parents give their children a gift. A voucher to see the combination of the Ghobadi's and Rosebiani's movies might be a valuable educational spring gift to those, who have an interest in understanding the sorrow and joy of a struggling and stateless but hopeful people! The voucher will give them a chance to freely make a choice between seeing none, one, or both of these movies.

Kamal H. Artin, MD, is a member of:
- Kurdish American Education Society
- Kurdish National Congress of North America
- Kurdistan Referendum Movement

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Kamal H. Artin



Book of the day

Three "olume box set of the Persian Book of Kings
Translated by Dick Da"is

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