Turtles Can Fly

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Turtles Can Fly
Turtles Can Fly poster.jpg
US theatrical release poster
Directed by Bahman Ghobadi
Produced by Babak Amini
Hamid Ghobadi
Hamid Ghavami
Bahman Ghobadi
Written by Bahman Ghobadi
Starring Soran Ebrahim
Avaz Latif
Music by Hossein Alizadeh
Cinematography Shahriah Assadi
Edited by Mostafa Kherghehpoosh
Hayedeh Safiyari
Mij Film Co.
Bac Film
Distributed by IFC Films (US)
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[1]
Country Iran
Language Kurdish
Box office $1,075,553

Turtles Can Fly (Persian: لاک پشت ها هم پرواز می کنند Lakposhthâ ham parvaz mikonand, Kurdish: Kûsî Jî Dikarin Bifirin Sorani Kurdish: کیسەڵەکان دەفڕن Turkish: Kaplumbağalar Da Uçar) is a 2004 Kurdish war drama film written, produced, and directed by Bahman Ghobadi, with notable theme music composed by Hossein Alizadeh. It was the first film to be made in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.


The film is set in the Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. Thirteen-year-old Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) is known for his installation of dishes and antennae (for local villages who are looking for news of Saddam Hussein) and for his limited knowledge of English. 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 Satellite arranges trade-ins for undetonated mines. He falls for an orphan named Agrin, 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. Traveling with her is her disabled, but very caring brother Hengov, who appears to have the gift of clairvoyance, though he seems to have a bad reputation for it. The siblings stay with a blind toddler named Riga. On course, we come to know that Agrin gave birth to him after she was gang raped by soldiers (In Agrin and Hengov's village, the girls had been killed after being raped, while the boys and their families were plain butchered. Hengov's arms had been shot as the soldiers attempted to drown both children). Throughout the film, we see how Agrin has been unable to accept Riga (who according to Agrin mysteriously unties his tethered leg and walks at night and returns to the camp safely despite his claims of being blind) as anything besides a taint, a continuous reminder of a brutal past.

Agrin tries to abandon the child on multiple occasions, until finally she ties him 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 crying and tries to salvage whatever can be. However, his nightmare is late & indeed all is lost by then. On his way to the lake, a flashback of Agrin in her final moments haunts Hengov standing on the abandoned tanks, Hengov eventually finds his nephew s body at the bottom of the lake but can't cut it loose from the rock partly due to his inability. At last he is seen grieving on the cliff from where Agrin jumped to her death, where he ultimately collects the shoes left behind by Agrin before the fatal leap. By the turn of the events including a disabled Satellite, the same protagonist loses any charm he had about the American intervention and looks away when the American soldiers finally pass close by him.


  • Soran Ebrahim as Satellite
  • Avaz Latif as Agrin
  • Hiresh Feysal Rahman as Hengov
  • Abdol Rahman Karim as Riga
  • Ajil Zibari as Shirkooh


Turtles Can Fly received generally positive reviews, currently holding a 90% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes[2] and an 85/100 rating on Metacritic, signifying "universal acclaim".[3]

Significantly, the film is silent about what happens to 'Satellite' after the Americans finally land in their refugee camp. Some critics[who?] believe that the film reflects the true sentiment of Kurds, many of whom suffered greatly under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and strongly supported the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq.


  1. Peace Film Award, Berlin International Film Festival, 2005
  2. Golden Seashell, Best Film, San Sebastián International Film Festival, 2004
  3. Special Jury Award, 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.[4]

The conversation between Satellite and the blind boy (Riga) when he is stuck on a landmine is sampled by Jay Electronica in his mixtape Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge).[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TURTLES CAN FLY (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 29 November 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Turtles Can Fly at Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved 23 June 2013
  3. ^ Turtles Can Fly at Metacritic Retrieved 23 June 2013
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Electronica, Jay. "Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)". 

External links[edit]