Turtles Can Fly

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Turtles Can Fly
Turtles Can Fly poster.jpg
US theatrical release poster
Directed byBahman Ghobadi
Written byBahman Ghobadi
Produced by
  • Babak Amini
  • Hamid Ghobadi
  • Hamid Ghavami
  • Bahman Ghobadi
  • Soran Ebrahim
  • Avaz Latif
CinematographyShahriar Assadi
Edited by
  • Mostafa Kherghehpoosh
  • Hayedeh Safiyari
Music byHossein Alizadeh
  • Mij Film Co.
  • Bac Film
Distributed byIFC Films (US)[1]
Release dates
  • 10 September 2004 (2004-09-10) (Toronto)
  • 18 February 2005 (2005-02-18) (United States)
  • 23 February 2005 (2005-02-23) (France)
Running time
97 minutes[2]
  • Iran
  • France
  • Iraq
Box office$816,975[3]

Turtles Can Fly (Kurdish: کیسەڵەکانیش دەفڕن) is a 2004 Kurdish war drama film written, produced, and directed by Bahman Ghobadi. The film stars Soran Ebrahim, Avaz Latif, Saddam Hossein Faysal, Hiresh Feysal Rahman, Abdolrahman Karim, Ajil Zibari. The plot is about three refugee children, on the border of Iraq-Turkey, awaiting for the Americans to invade Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Turtles Can Fly was the first film to be made after Saddam Hussein's fall in Iraq.[4][5] It had its premiere at 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.


The film is set in the Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraq–Turkey border on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. Thirteen-year-old Soran, known by the alias Kak Satellite, is known for his installation of dishes and antenna for the villages who are looking for news about Saddam Hussein, he is also known for his limited knowledge of the English language, which he learns because he interacts with the Americans when they invade. He is the dynamic, but manipulative leader of the children, organizing the dangerous but necessary sweeping and clearing of the minefields. Many of these children are injured one way or the other, yet still maintain a boisterous prattle whenever possible, devoted to their work in spite of the vagaries of their life.

The industrious Kak Satellite arranges trade-ins for undetonated mines. He falls for a girl named Agrin, an orphan from Halabja who has recently came to the refugee camps, assisting her whenever possible in order to win her over. She is a perpetual dour-faced girl who is part bitter, part lost in thought, unable to escape the demons of the past. She is traveling with her disabled but very caring brother Hengov, who has the gift of clairvoyance that made him have a bad reputation for it. The siblings stay with a blind toddler named Riga, who they introduce as their "little brother". It is later revealed that Agrin gave birth to Riga after she was gang raped by Ba'ath soldiers, while Hengov's arms had been shot as the soldiers attempted to drown both of them. Agrin is unable to accept Riga as anything besides a taint, a continuous reminder of her brutal past.

Agrin tries to abandon the child and commit suicide on multiple occasions. Once she tries to burn herself in the lake, but she gives up. Trying to get rid of the child, she ties him on a tree and abandons him. He walks around until he gets stuck in a minefield. Kak Satellite tries to rescue him but a mine blows on Kak Satellite, injuring his leg. After multiple tries, Agrin finally ties Riga to a rock and throws him to the bottom of the lake, afterwards committing suicide herself by jumping from a cliff. When her brother sees a vision of his loved ones drowning, he hurries out of the tent to save them, but he is too late. Hengov eventually finds his nephew's body at the bottom of the lake but can't cut it loose from the rock due to his disability. Hengov grieves on the cliff from where Agrin jumped to her death. Meanwhile, a disabled Kak Satellite loses any charm he had about the American intervention and looks away when the American soldiers finally pass by him.


  • Soran Ebrahim as Kak Satellite/Soran
  • Avaz Latif as Agrin
  • Saddam Hossein Faysal as Pashow
  • Hiresh Feysal Rahman as Hengov
  • Abdol Rahman Karim as Riga
  • Ajil Zibari as Shirkooh


Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 73 reviews, with an average rating of 7.70/10. The site's critical consensus reads "Set in Iraq after the fall of Saddam, Turtles Can Fly is being hailed as extraordinary, moving, and lyrical."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[7]

Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, describing the film's story as "the actual lives of refugees, who lack the luxury of opinions because they are preoccupied with staying alive in a world that has no place for them".[8] David Sterritt of The Christian Science Monitor praised the film saying, "Superb acting and authentic details energize this rare Iran/Iraq coproduction.".[9] Michael Koresky of IndieWire praised the film writing, "Rarely does a film feel this urgent, like a message in a bottle accidentally washed ashore."[10]

The film was included in the list of best war movies of all time by Jacob Osborn and Megan Drillinger of News Channel Nebraska, where it was placed on the 35th position.[11][12]


  1. Special Mention by the Youth Jury, Berlin International Film Festival, 2005[13]
  2. Golden Seashell, Best Film, San Sebastián International Film Festival, 2004
  3. Special Jury Prize, Chicago International Film Festival, 2004
  4. International Jury and Audience Awards, São Paulo International Film Festival, 2004
  5. La Pieza Award, Best Film, Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival, 2005
  6. Audience Award, Rotterdam International Film Festival, 2005
  7. Golden Prometheus, Best Film, Tbilisi International Film Festival, 2005
  8. Aurora Award, Tromsø International Film Festival, 2005
  9. Golden Butterfly, Isfahan International Festival of Films for Children, 2004
  10. Gold Dolphin, Festróia - Tróia International Film Festival, 2005
  11. Sundance Selection, 2005
  12. Silver Skeleton Award Harvest Moonlight Festival 2007

In popular culture[edit]

The film had an influence on the 2007-2009 Gundam anime series Mobile Suit Gundam 00. The anime's main protagonist Setsuna F. Seiei is a war orphan of Kurdish origins and his real name is Soran Ibrahim, a reference to the child actor portraying the protagonist of Turtles Can Fly.[14] The film was sampled by Jay Electronica in his 2007 mixtape Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge).[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kay, Jeremy (10 November 2004). "IFC takes US rights to Turtles Can Fly". ScreenDaily. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  2. ^ "TURTLES CAN FLY (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 29 November 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  3. ^ Turtles Can Fly - Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 27, 2021
  4. ^ "ئەم فیلمە كوردیەت بینیوە كە لە 73 ڤیستیڤاڵی نێودەوڵەتی نمایشكراوە؟" [Have you seen this Kurdish movie that has been shown at 73 international festival?]. Yalla. يلا. 23 July 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  5. ^ Ghobadi, Bahman (2005). Turtles Can Fly (DVD). Culver City, California: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. ISBN 9780792867418. OCLC 61126755. 027616124142.
  6. ^ "Turtles Can Fly (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  7. ^ "Turtles Can Fly Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (14 April 2005). "Children teetering on the border". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  9. ^ Sterritt, David (18 February 2005). "Movie Guide". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  10. ^ Koresky, Michael (15 February 2005). "Message in a Bottle: Bahman Ghobadi's "Turtles Can Fly"". IndieWire. IndieWire. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  11. ^ Osborn, Jacob; Drillinger, Megan (7 July 2020). "Best war movies of all time" (News Channel Nebraska). Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  12. ^ "کیسەڵەکانیش دەفڕن لە لیستی 100 فیلمی دیاری مێژووی سینەمادایە" ["Turtles Can Fly" is on the list of 100 best movie of all time]. Kurdstani Nwe. 13 September 2019. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  13. ^ "Prizes & Honours 2005". www.berlinale.de. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  14. ^ Manry, Gia (5 July 2009). "AX09: Gundam 00 Focus Panel". Anime Vice. Whiskey Media. Archived from the original on 23 December 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  15. ^ Gal Hazor (10 July 2019). "10 Best Rap Songs 10 Minutes or Longer". DJ Booth. Retrieved 28 January 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]