Turtles Can Fly Bahman Ghobadi

The director of A Time for Drunken Horses once again tackles Kurdish life between borders, this time with spectacular and heartbreaking results. Set on the Turkish/Iraq border just before the American invasion, his film centres on a pubescent hustler dubbed Satellite who, when not helping install satellite dishes, is trafficking in military debris and organising local children to collect mines. While a Kurdish village struggles to find news of the impending war (they've been blacked out by a vengeful Saddam), a young girl, her apparently clairvoyant, armless brother and her "child" show up, causing romantic attachment and confusing his manipulative mission. This is one potent movie, far outclassing the Afghani excursions of his countrymen the Makhmalbafs through a total resistance to sentimentality and a greater closeness to the subject matter. Where Iran's first family of filmmaking would have announced their mounting of the soapbox, Ghobadi simply rubs your face in shocking and arresting images — a scene in a munitions waste dump brilliantly demonstrates the madness with scavenging children — and the landscape is forever used to frame and swallow up the hapless characters. But the director never wrings his hands over the surreal fate his protagonists have been handed, choosing instead to just get on with it — and that's the point. The film is about people who simply have to deal with a nightmarish existence and who lack the luxury of editorialising or complaining. Satellite does some pretty terrible things, but in lieu of anything else that's how he saves himself, and the tragedy of the film is how he finally wishes to help someone else and finds that history has other ideas. It's powerful, unmissable, and one of the best films of the year. (Warner)