“Don’t tell father about it, please. We will both be punished”, says Ali to his sister Zahra, a brother-sister combination that reminded me a lot about my own childhood. Excepting of course, the fact that my equation with my sister was often filled with fighting, even violence during our early years. Ali and Zahra, on the contrary, seemed to have learned the art of coexistence, something that remains a mystery to the majority of the adult world.
One look at his eyes, the depth in them, the candid reflection of reality as that 12 odd year old had perceived it and we knew Ali had grown up, a growth that had happened earlier than it was meant to. From a limited standpoint, his childhood, like that of many of the not so privileged, had been snatched away from him quite fast. He was forced to face the truth, that some may describe to be bitter, and he had learned to accept it with a certain cheer that in my opinion is rare, more so for such a young heart. And yet, the world had not made him the bitter cynic that many of us grown ups invariably turn out to be.
Bacheha-Ye aseman is a simple movie that doesn’t have much of a beginning or for that matter, an end. It is one of those movies that starts off nowhere, but leaves a mark. My experience with movies is predominantly restricted to popular flicks, for I confine it to actually going to the cinema. Bums don’t have fancy home theatre systems, and watching it on a computer or television, to me, would be a gross insult to the idea of movie making! So when this one was screened at a recent forum of educationists that I had been to, I decided to watch it, more out of curiosity of what a Persian movie would be like than anything else.
The opening shot shows just a pair of hands, those of a cobbler deftly mending a pair of shoes. Ali collects his sister’s shoes, thanks the cobbler and runs off towards home. He stops en route at the vegetable vendor’s, where he inadvertently loses the shoes. Realizing that his family does not have enough money to buy his sister a new pair of shoes, he requests her not to mention the loss to their parents. As to how she would go to school without shoes, he comes up with a plan where she would wear his sneakers in the morning and go to school. After she would return, he would get back his shoes so that he may go to school in the afternoon.
An ingenious plan, that goes on to throw many an adventure in the young lives, including the once when Zahra – owing to the fact that her brother’s shoes are too big for her feet – drops one of them in a small canal, and runs all along with the flow of the water, trying desperately to retrieve the lost shoe. Children of Heaven is about the blemish less innocence of childhood, about love and about a family where there is happiness in the midst of hardship.
I am not much of a critic, in the sense I don’t understand the technicalities of scripting and screenplay and what not. The fact that adversity teaches us a lot is something that I have had the good fortune to personally experience at different times in life. It is this aspect, among others, that the movie so beautifully portrays. And what is most striking is that in doing so, it employs the most beautiful of God’s creation – children.