Children of Heaven (بچههای آسما) Made in: Iran Language: Farsi Director: Majid Majidi Starring: Amir Farrokh Hashemian, Bahare Seddiqi, Mohammad Amir Naji, Dariush Mokhtari, Behzad Rafi Year: 1997
Synopsis: Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemian) is a 9 year-old boy living with his poor family in the outskirts of Tehran. While running errands, Ali accidentally loses a pair of shoes belonging to his younger sister Zahra (Bahare Seddiqi).
Deeply regretful, Ali urges Zhara not to tell their parents. For if their hard-ass of a father (Amir Farrokh Hasemian) finds out, the kids will have more than just U.N. sanctions to worry about.
As a temporary solution, Ali arranges to share his own worn sneakers with his sister. Despite a slew of challenges and troubles that result, the children are able to make their plan work for a time.
But knowing this can't go on indefinitely, Ali finds a solution when he enters a marathon for school kids. The prize for finishing third is a new pair of shoes, and Ali swears to little Zahra that he'll do everything he can to enter the race.
Already proving himself to be one of the best runners in his school, the day of the race draws near and Ali is determined with all his might...to finish third!
Remarks: Children of Heaven is a simple, clean kid's movie full of positive messages. There's an innocence and purity in the film that makes it relaxing, and there's no obtrusive political commentary. The few pro-Iranian lines are there to provide context, but the main focus is on Ali and his dilemma.
Majid Majidi does a good job exploring the worries of small children, and having the viewer see the world through their eyes. Amir Farrokh Hashemian as Ali does a convincing job playing an ordinary kid, but Bahare Seddiqi is absolutely adorable as Zahra. She's not a little starlet with a smart-mouth. Rather, her natural cuteness comes from being a precocious, good-hearted kid who trusts her big brother.
Other than the language, there isn't much in Children of Heaven that non-Iranians won't understand. In some places, the pacing might be a little slow for adults. But the climactic marathon scene is very well done, and actually builds up quite a bit of excitement.
Who would like this movie: The Oscar-nominated Children of Heaven is for you if you're a fan of foreign films, and if you're interested in seeing an Iranian movie that deals with people who aren't interested in nuclear proliferation or wiping anyone off the map.
It's refreshing to watch a movie about ordinary Iranians, and it's nice to see something about Iran without associating that country with President Ahmadenijad and his irresponsible ranting for a change.
Majid Majidi's film puts a human face on a country that most of us will probably never get a chance to visit any time soon, and hopefully other filmmakers from the "Axis of Evil" will continue making movies that break cultural barriers with the "Great Satan."