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Children of HeavenIf there is a film director better at making movies about children than Majid Majidi of Iran, I don’t know who it would be. And I don’t mean children’s movies.  Movies for adults, in which children are the main protagonists and the story is about children and parents in real situations, not children and heroic animals overcome impossible odds.

I’d previously loved his Song of Sparrows [2008],   and Baran [2001].  Today I am in a mesmeric state over Children of Heaven [1997], despite a badly synchronized sound track fron Netflix.  Like Song of Sparrows, this simple story of a brother and sister, takes place in a very poor neighborhood, though this time in Tehran itself.  Young Ali [Amir Farrokh Hashemian] about 4th grade tucks the shoes of his younger sister, Zahra [Bahare Seddiqi] which he is bringing back from the repairman, below a box of fruit while he finishes his errands.  When he comes out they are gone.  Frantic, he upsets the fruit stand while looking for them, and finally has to return home without them.

“Don’t tell dad!” he urges Zarah, with the kind of dread that is part of the tribe of children around the world, though it seems he is less afraid of a beating or berating than knowing there is no money for another pair.  So, the two begin to share the sole pair of shoes they have, in a relay race as she finishes school in the morning and he begins in the afternoon.

The running leads to an unexpected chance to win a new pair of shoes, and an unexpected win of more than Ali wants.

We watch it and are entranced with all sorts of things:  young girls with head scarves standing in obedient rows and then running like the dickens through center-gutter streets to return the shoes on time; Zahra meeting a girl even more poor than she and having the compassion not to demand her missing shoes back; the single room home of the family of four, and how the ailing mother does her best with her house work, while the others help her out; an excursion on a bike from their very poor neighborhood into a super wealthy one — giving Belvedere in Marin County and Pacifc Heights in San Francisco a run– to get some gardening work.

Majidi’s ability to elicit a sorrowful and tearful face from Ali is really a wonder.  A marvelous conversation in written Farsi between the children, and the gift/bribe of a pencil, and later a pen give us childhood with a few sure takes.

The closing foot race, and the conclusion of Ali’s victory is both predictable, and not; a bitter-sweet moment.

You’ll keep images from Children of Heaven with you for days and see the lives of people far below the powerful who make and unmake the news every day.