Monday, March 1, 2021

Movie with Abe: Sun Children

Sun Children
Directed by Majid Majidi
Release TBD

When people are presented with opportunities, they have the choice to take them or not to, but it’s likely that even their worst option may not be all that bad. Those without that luxury are forced to develop other ways to survive and to find success, though every road to possibility may still be paved with obstacles and unforeseen detours that simply can’t be avoided. Working hard to achieve a big score that can provide an escape from poverty can be very appealing, especially to young, impressionable minds, a notion explored in Iran’s Oscar-shortlisted submission for Best International Feature.

Ali (Roohollah Zamani) is twelve years old and living in Tehran, where he is forced to work for Hashem (Ali Nasirian), a crime boss who gives him a formidable assignment: to tunnel under a school to the vast treasure buried underneath the adjacent cemetery. Along with his friends Abolfazl (Abolfazl Shirzad), Reza (Mani Ghafouri), and Mamad (Mohammad Mahdi Moursavifar), Ali enrolls in the Sun School, splitting his time between classes and intensive physical labor below the classrooms. Vice-Principal Rafie (Javad Ezati) connects with his new students, while the principal (Ali Ghabeshi) seems far more concerned with currying political favor to keep the school open and funded.

This film doesn’t offer too much backstory to explain Ali’s circumstances aside from a powerful opening dedication to the “152 million children forced into child labor and those who fight for their rights.” That’s a fitting introduction as any, and Ali is one who proves himself more than capable for a job that seems entirely impossible. He works for hours each day chipping away with tools in a confined space believing that what he is doing will bring him great success and fortune, following the orders of a man who likely never thinks much about him. It’s a powerful testament to youthful imagination and the way in which that can be applied with the influence of the wrong mentors.

There is extraordinary talent on display here, led by the incredible Zomani in his film debut that rightfully earned him accolades at the Venice Film Festival. He demonstrates a true humanity in Ali, a drive to succeed at something that is dishonest and potentially illegal but represents a chance to live a different kind of life. The rest of the ensemble, including Ezati, is similarly terrific, anchoring a film that may earn Iran its fourth-ever Oscar nomination for representing a facet of its society that may be recognizable by some of its cultural elements but speaks to important international truths present throughout the world.


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