Opening 5 May 2005
This is the story of a community of orphaned refugee children on the northern Iraqi border, struggling with both the growing pains of adolescence and the reality of living in an impoverished minefield on the brink of war. Their 13-year-old leader, a loveable character nicknamed Satellite for his technical talents, is charming and self-confident. He is the village handyman, the workforce organizer, the salesman and trader, the town crier and even the English teacher. With charisma but not always grace (what teenage boy can be entirely graceful?), he conceals his weaknesses by being macho but not aggressive. Satellite finds himself with a terrible crush on a mysterious newcomer to the camp, Agrin, a beautiful girl with an armless older brother who has a talent for premonitions. After suffering a brutal rape at the hands of Iraqi soldiers, she now has a two-year-old son. Agrin has endured more suffering than any person, let alone a child, should have to bear, and this tormented soul has begun to lose the will to live. Because her son is a constant reminder of her pain, she repeatedly attempts to abandon him in life-threatening situations. In one instance, Satellite, never one to back down from danger, rescues the boy, whom Agrin has tied to a tree in the middle of a minefield, but Satellite’s foot is badly injured when a mine explodes. As the war begins and Saddam is toppled, Satellite must deal with the realization that not everything is under his control. But he is above all a survivor, and we are left with the impression that he will not succumb to the misery.
In the faces of these young, inexperienced actors, director Bahman Ghobadi portrays the unimaginable resilience of children and the ability of the human spirit to persevere and hope. The cinematography is breathtakingly simple – the picture of innocence itself – and the acting and direction are superb. (Alyssa Cirelli)