I have never felt such an overwhelming sense of melancholy as I did after viewing Bahman Ghobadi’s “Turtles Can Fly.”
The film depicts the children of an impoverished village near the Iran-Turkey border, whose main source of income is disarming minefields left over from past conflicts.
While picking at my dinner, having lost my appetite, I recalled a few other films which had a similar result, namely Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God” and Stephen Frears’ “Liam.”
“City of God” depicts the brutal existence of youth in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro during the 1980s, where living past the age of 17 was unusual. Their only “escape” from poverty was involvement in gangs, which perpetuated the city’s violence and caused early deaths.
“Liam” is the story of a young boy and his siblings struggling to cope with poverty during the Liverpool depression, the overbearing pressure of strict Christian values and their father’s joining of the British Union of fascists, aka “the blackshirts.” Liam struggles to express himself with his impeding stutter, his individuality repressed by the turmoil surrounding him.
Upon finishing these films I felt utterly dejected. I began to ask myself – why do films with youthful protagonists leave me feeling so disheartened?
Call me a sensitive fruit if you must, but from my observations, for most people this is generally true – seeing the corruption of youth affects the audience in a different way, even if simulated on the movie screen.
What does youth represent to us, and why does its defilement cause such grief?
To me, youth symbolizes future of humanity – the potential and hope of a better society.
To watch the corruption, violence and greed infect a youthful protagonist causes despair knowing that these sorts of things exist, and will continue to perpetuate in societies where positive opportunity is not so readily available.
Films that leave the audience with a sense of a futureless young character, especially when the film is based on true events, as in the case of the three aforementioned films, are extremely moving.
Films such as these remind me how much is taken for granted these days. I have become more aware of the opportunities I am allowed – higher education, food and a place to sleep at night without the immediate threat of being shot – keeping in mind that there are many out there who are not afforded a fraction of what I have.
It is a funny thing, because while I am saddened that not everyone is offered this opportunity, I am also motivated to take advantage of what I have, and perhaps – hopefully – contribute to the prevention of someone’s corruption.
As for how to go about this? Right now I’m not so sure.
Oleksa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.