Owen Gleiberman
February 23, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

Turtles Can Fly

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
runtime
98 minutes
Limited Release Date
02/18/05
performer
Soran Ebrahim, Avaz Latif
director
Bahman Ghobadi
author
Bahman Ghobadi
genre
War, Foreign Language

We gave it a C-

It’s understandable that Turtles Can Fly, set in Kurdistan on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq, has been greeted less as a movie than as a bulletin from a fraught global corner. If only it weren’t such a patchy mess of a movie. The director, Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses), strings together shots of life in a refugee village with such random, rhythmless vagueness that it’s easy to think of him as a poet of ”quiet” devastation. Except that the central figure, a 13-year-old boy who goes by the nickname of Satellite (Soran Ebrahim), blares out every line of dialogue at the exact same megaphonic level. Ghobadi casts one child performer whose arms have been blown off by land mines, but lacerating as that is to behold, Turtles Can Fly lacks grace, coherence, and a surface vivid enough to make it an alarm that many will hear.

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