A few days back, I watched Turtles Can Fly, a Kurdish film by the Irani filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi. I was left speechless. The film is set in a Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. The name of the film has a beautiful story of its own. Ghobadi was shooting an underwater sequence, when a turtle glided across his field of view, its tiny appendages flapping swiftly but effortlessly, carrying the great weight of its shell. That turtle reminded him of his people, the Kurds, how the burden of generations of migration and genocide clung to them. His film depicted utter hopelessness, but truth has to be told.
The trauma of war has been an issue much covered in cinema, but in this film, we are shown the impact that it has on those who are most innocent of all- the children. War from an innocent perspective; yet not a dark comedy- this film has a lot to offer. This also reveals another aspect of this film- the adults in the film are shown as the scared lot. They are always shown hiding, squeaking in their houses; following orthodox practices. It leaves you in a land where war can be smelled, where destruction is not a new addition to the inhabitant’s menu. The adults being dormant, while the kids are enthusiastic is totally justified.
Prior to this, Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful and a selected handful unforgettable films had also fearlessly covered this nightmarish, inhumane aspect of war. This film hits hard enough to be called a masterpiece. After these 1 hr 37 minutes of brainwash, I stared blankly at the screen for fifteen minutes, amidst a state of pure, and surprisingly prolonged, emotional helplessness. I felt like loosing something… I felt the pain of lost innocence.