I have always been skeptic of war films; they are usually one sided and fail to take you inside the thoughts of the nation(s). I mean how can you sum up the paradoxical rational of man killing man in less that 2 hours?
Did “Turtles can fly” manage to that? I don’t know why I don’t even see this movie as a war film. Yes, the setting is a Kurdish refugee camp just near the Turkish border, yes the story does start just before the American invasion, yes in almost every scene we see mines, guns, and tanks; but the story could have been just as poignant without these memorabilia.
The story slowly drags you into the reality of the world of 3 orphan kids who are forced to make decisions most adults in your world and mine are too spoiled to even reflect upon.
First you have ‘Satellite’, the leader of the orphans in the camps who won my admiration for his genuine fatherly concern for the kids living on the edge of death (mine field), use of sense of humor, his hope, his heroism, his energy, and most of all for his affection towards Agrin.
Then there is Henkov who had lost his both his arms and is said to have the ability to foretell the future. He has come to accept the reality of the agony he and his family has gone through and does not seem to hold any grudges against anyone or life. His main concern is to protect their little toddler and try to get his sister to accept him. He tells her, “You won’t be able to sleep unless you learn to like the child.”
And then there’s Agrin, Henkov’s 13 year-old sister. Getting to know her was painful and slow. We first join her trauma when she wants to get a rope for her blind toddler ‘brother’. She then takes us to her dream, dreams of jumping of a cliff, dreams of setting herself on fire, dreams of ending her agony in the least painful and fastest way possible. She doesn’t say much throughout the film but her blank stares leaves you wondering, wondering why she can’t have the same hope as Satellite or come to terms with reality like Henkov; why she holds a grudge against the toddler. Why? She painfully lets you into her world that has left her traumatized and into the night her village was attacked, her parents killed, and she was savagely raped in a river while her helpless brother watched. The rope she got at the beginning of the film brings her agony to an end as she uses it drown her ‘bastard’ son. Suicide was the only way out of the reality she was handed down with.
Things I still reflect upon:
1. Why is the film called Turtles Can Fly? Agrin’s son says, “I want to put my turtles in the water”; later on his mother drowns him in the water, but I fail to understand the symbolism.
2. What did Henkov’s ability to foretell the future symbolize? At the beginning of the film someone says “It’s [the news on TV] all lies, they lie to fill their pocket.” Maybe Henkov is the reliable source of the truth as oppose to the propaganda the satellites dishes he sets up broadcasts?
3. What did the red fish symbolize?
4. What significant event happened 175 days after the fall of Saddam?
Favorite lines from the film:
That boy is very important. He makes predictions. These days money is in the news.
“Hey, Effendi! Hey Mr.! Are you fine? Do you want us to start a war?” Joked by a one-legged orphan mine sweeper as he laughs and brings up his only leg to pretend to shoot at the Turkish border soldier.
-Why don’t you speak properly?’
-There’s money in ”hello” these days. If I don’t say hello, no one answers back. Do you see these boys? They don’t know you’re Kurd. They think you’re a foreigner. The Americans are coming. Learn ”OKs” and all will be fine.
When Satellite describe the bullet casing necklace he buys for Agrin as “It’s international” with a grin on his face.