Written by Clare O'Connor and Edited by Daniel O'Connor //
Children move as a swarm through just one of many small refugee camps nestled among the mountains that populate the Iraqi-Turkish border. After a moment, individuals formerly hidden by the crowd come into focus. One figure reveals himself — a young boy holding crutches with one pant leg flying behind him. Another face appears — a child with a baby clinging to her neck. Some of these children have parents or relatives waiting in their tents. However, most of the children will be left alone. Their parents are dead. Whether or not these children have a family, none of these children have a nation to claim as their own. These children's need for belonging translates into a sharp anticipation of an inevitable conflict that history shows will only hurt the Kurdish people.
Turtles Can Fly is a Kurdish language film that follows the imagined lives of a few of these refugee children living in a Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border. Throughout the film, the audience can see into the difficult lives of refugees anticipating conflict. This unique view is only accented by the film’s focus on children who have lost the innocence of their age due to the taxing lives they are forced to live.
Although the movie focuses on children, it is not made for younger viewers. Turtles Can Fly provides a realistic view of refugees' lives that would be difficult for children to watch. Most of the graphic content happens off screen or is hidden, but brief moments of extreme physical distress and extreme violence are shown. In addition to violent visuals, rape and suicide are important story elements that are heavily implied throughout the film. The structure of the film also discourages younger audiences. The movie follows a complicated timeline, relying on the viewer to piece together information.
Overall, the film does an accurate and unfiltered job depicting the strife of the Kurdish people and highlighting the shared refugee experience. The film’s focus on children allows the viewer to see moments of raw pain juxtaposed with recognizable experiences from any childhood; by showing the events of the film through the eyes of children, the movie emphasizes how different the refugee experience is from our own as well as showing the similarities of all humans despite hardship and pain. Following the story of individuals, rather than viewing the problem generally, instills an empathy that research and data alone can’t fully convey. I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants to understand the individual lives that aren't shown in most media. Turtles Can Fly is a great movie that opened my mind and helped me understand the complexity of how conflict affects different people. For mature audiences because of violence and rape.
Note: This movie can be found on Amazon Prime Video
Ghobadi, Bahman, Hamid Ghavami, Batin Ghobadi, Ḥamīd Karīmī, Babak Amini, Avaz Latif, Soran Ebrahim, Saddam H. Feysal, Hiresh F. Rahman, Abdol R. Karim, and Ajil Zibari. Turtles Can Fly. , 2005.