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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on September 18, 1999
This movie is a perfect example of how a film can be made beautifully effective without having to resort to raw sex, constant violence, or complicated plots. It is the simple but charming story of two poor children, a brother and a sister, who must share one pair of shoes because the brother, during his walk home from the shoe repair loses his sister's shoes.The loss of the shoes brings on all the difficulties with which they must now cope. The film tenderly shows how they strive toward resolution of their problem. The dialogue is kept minimal, and yet the director has achieved a very solid tension that keeps your eyes glued to the screen from the opening frames till the very end. This film beautifully shows a world of which most Westerners are completley unaware, a world that is so different from our own. The bulk of the film is carried very capably, on the shoulders of two small, young children, and they do a totally magnificant job of making you believe this very lovely, charming, and worthy film. This is the stuff for which Oscars are made.
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This 1997 film is from Iran. And it's the kind of film that the whole family can enjoy. It's about a 9-year old boy who loses his 7-year old sister's shoes through no fault of his own. They are very poor and they both want to keep it a secret from their parents. And so they share his only pair of worn-out sneakers. She wears them to school in the morning, and then runs through the streets, gives him the shoes and he wears them in the afternoon. Such a plan is not without its challenges, however. She almost loses a shoe when it falls into a gutter. He's late for school. The shoes are worn. Both of them crave a pair of their own.
Amir Farrokh Hasherman is cast as the boy. He has the biggest, most expressive eyes I've ever seen and my heart immediately went out to him. Bahare Seddiqi is the little sister. She wears a long dress and a white head covering just like all the other little girls. It's their shoes that show their individuality and she is always looking at all the other little girl's feet. One day she sees a little girl wearing her own lost shoes, but the other little girl is the daughter of a blind beggar. Later, there is a footrace announced in the little boy's school. He finds out that if he wins third prize he can get a new pair of sneakers. The tension mounts.
One of the best things about this film is that it brought me into another culture. This is not about revolution and bombs and sadness. This is just a simple story about the love between a brother and sister. It transcends all cultures, and makes the audience see the humanity of the children. There's one scene where they clean the shoes and blow great big soap bubbles at each other. It certainly is heartwarming. I just wanted to give these children a great big hug.
This is a beautiful film. I highly recommend it.
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on July 23, 2000
The wonderful Iranian film, "Children of Heaven," and its companion piece, "The White Balloon", remind one of those great Czechoslovakian films of the 1960's ("The Shop on Main Street" and "Loves of a Blonde" etc.) in that they achieve their artistry by providing keenly observed glimpses into the minutiae of everyday life. They also help to humanize a culture often regarded as alien and even incomprehensible to western eyes. Above all, this magnificent film reminds us that real drama comes not in the form of overplotted special effects laden extravaganzas, but from films that examine the universal simplicities of life as we all know it. When it is distilled through the eyes of a poet - this is when art is achieved.
"Children of Heaven" has its roots planted firmly in the neorealist tradition. Its simple story echoes not merely the earlier "The White Balloon" but the original Italian classic, "The Bicycle Thief." In this film, young Ali accidentally loses his sister's recently mended shoes; out of this tale of utmost simplicity, the filmmakers take us on a fascinating tour of life in a typical Iranian village and family. As Ali and his sister scheme to overcome this obstacle, the film touches on any number of universal themes: the close ties of siblings united in their common bond of avoiding often irrational parental anger; well meaning, loving parents overwhelmed with the trials of everyday life who are often compelled to act out in ways that seem cruel to the children who adore them; the petty viciousness with which children often strike out at each other, yet, at the same time, the often unexpectant kindness and empathy with which they also treat one another. The film manages to keep the audience constantly engrossed in its action without once resorting to even a smidgen of incredibility or melodrama. Beautifully directed, with a superb soundtrack filled with heightened naturalistic noises, it is a film of many-splendored wonders, its lyricism caught in a glimpse of soap bubbles floating around a backyard produced by two children abandoned to their moment of incomprehensible youthful joy, its high drama found in a shoe racing down a city sewer with a desperate young girl in tow.
The actors, children and adults alike, underplay their roles in so naturalistic a fashion that one does not even feel they are performing at all; the film, through them, becomes a magical fabric of life that draws the audience deep into its world.
"Children of Heaven" brilliantly demonstrates that works of art often arise from the observation of the most seemingly mundane concerns of daily life and reminds us that this provides far more drama than all the exploding spaceships, car chases and hyperkinetic melodrama that flood the screen in the guise of entertainment. It certainly shows just how phony, empty and bereft of life most American films are. Don't miss "Children of Heaven"! It is a richly rewarding experience.
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on August 12, 2000
I bought this movie without knowing what to expect, I have never been touched by a movie so much before. Forget Titanic, this is as real as love gets. The story however does not have the same concept as love between two strangers; in this case, it is about love between a brother and his little sister. The little boy looses her sister's shoes; they are so poor that the parents cannot afford to buy a new pair for her. They decide to keep it a little secret between them. The little boy feels so sad that he lost her sister's shoes, so he is determined to recover them; he does everything possible so her little sister is happy. Throughout the movie you can see the incredible amount of love that they have among each other. The movie takes place in Iran, so the movie is subtitled in English. But you do not have to look at the words at the bottom of the screen to understand what the message of the movie is. I recommend this movie to anyone. It will touch you so deeply inside your heart.
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on October 19, 1999
What a wonderful, gentle movie! It's great to feel that you've seen something that actually shows real people's feelings, that doesn't condescend to overstatement to make sure the audience 'gets' it. The acting is sincere and believable. You truly feel for the tragedy a lost shoe can be in a family with no money to replace it. The struggles the young boy goes through to find it are hard for us to fathom here, where poverty doesn't look quite the same as poverty in other places.
A Wonderful Film!!
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VINE VOICEon April 19, 2005
This Iranian film tells a simple story of a brother (Ali) and sister Zahra (he's 9, she's younger) who live in a particularly poor family -- the father serves tea for a living and the mother has been sick, which could explain why they're five months behind in the rent. Ali takes his sister's shoes to be mended but loses them on the way home in a "could happen to anyone" accident. They are his sister's only shoes and there's no money to buy more -- and they fear the father's wrath. They end up sharing the boy's shoes -- which apparently works because the school building is shared by boys and girls but not at the same time. Still, there's a lot of running involved in making the switch.

What is striking is the integrity of everyone in this movie, despite their poverty. A six-year-old finds a pen and returns it. The father wouldn't think of taking something that wasn't his, however tiny. And there's much kindness in this movie, showing that poverty doesn't need to make people greedy and cruel -- money seems to do that.

I highly recommend this movie. Although it's subtitled, it's definitely a family film and could provide a good basis for a discussion of compassion and honesty. But it's also a very charming film for people of all ages.
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on July 19, 2001
I really loved watching this movie and enjoyed sharing this film with my American friends. Even with subtitles they all loved the story. In real life people are going through rough times in Iran and we can see the impact of current events on the characters of this story. From the beginning to end, we see how the chacter Ali and his sister Zahra are worried about a lost shoe, and are not scared about that their parents might be mad, but more in terms that their dad might need to borrow
money for a shoe.
There's a scene where Zahra sees another girl with the exact same shoes like hers, and let's her brother know about the matter. Their might be a hidden clue the kids would want to steal the shoes from this other girl, but the two siblings realize this other girl's father is a blind man and just walk away.
It shows are unique taste of Iranian culture of the poor people in Urban Tehran. Although Iran is a very strict country, this movie has deeper clues of showing
how poverty is affecting even the children of Iran.
In the end of course many viewers will shocked by an abrupt conclusion, yet one must realize it is similar to an avant-garde film. There is joy, yet a feeling of sadness, victory, yet a feeling of loss. With the credits rolling, it is upto the audience to decide.
This movie definitely deserve 5 stars, and a lot of credit to the producers and directors who probably worked under pressure to make sure they release such a movie, and not have it sensored by the strict government.
Enjoy the movie, but look for clues which reflect the actual society of Iran. This movie shows a sense of hope for the fture of the Iranian people.
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on May 21, 2002
This movie truly is a crowd pleaser. A terrific film from Majid Majidi, exploring the frank tenderness of the human heart between a brother, Ali, and his little sister, Zahra. These two charming young actors ( especially Zahra, God she's so adorable) gave a marvelous performance. It is a simple story about how Ali accidently lost Zahra's shoe's and now Ali makes a wise decision by not telling his parents and so he shares his own shoes with Zahra. She attends her day class with his shoes and when she's done with no time to kill she has to run to him to hand him over his shoes so that he can catch his afternoon class. But he kept running late for classes and in trouble for being late. When there was a school ad posted regarding a marathon race, Ali decides to go for that ultimate sacrifice for the love of his sister all beacause the prize was first place gets the cup and third place gets a pair of running shoes. But somehow he went first place and got the cup. Eventually that wasn't the end for there was a bigger surprise (I won't give anything away, see it for yourself). This formula has worked so exquisitley. What a magical film.
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on February 7, 2000
This is by far the best film I have seen in years. Instead of sitting down to another mind-numbing comedy or stupid action movie, watch this. While not an overly new message, this film portrayed a side of life that we often neglect as adults: the child's perspective. I thought about this story for days afterward, and still have the images in my head. Many films can make you laugh or cry; this one makes you think. In our me-centered culture, we can learn so much from an exellent film like this one.
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on February 12, 2006
I am from the Philippines. Four years ago I taught English to six classes of high school sophomores and seniors in Laguna, a province three hours away from Manila. I invited my classes to watch this movie, and they did. This was some months after 9/11. A lot of the students have parents who work as cheap laborers and domestic help in the Middle East, including Iran. I thought they'd be curious to see it.

They enjoyed it tremendously. They cheered when Ali won the race, were touched by the strong emotional bond between the brother and sister, and related to the travails of the poor Iranian family. I guess they were a little surprised that oil-rich Iran, a country where a lot of Filipinos work in order to send money back home, has poor people, too. The movie was a change from the First World perspective and escapism of the Hollywood movies they were used to. Islamic and relatively wealthy Iran created a movie that connected with a Christian audience from a poor country. The movie was close to home.

Should you watch this movie? Yes. This tender and powerful movie counters the dehumanizing consequences of global conflict and world politics (usually dictated by isolated and narrow-minded men). Iran is often in news, monolithically depicted as this nuclear threat. In the face of such negative media representation, of "axis of evil" rhetorics, the inevitable Arabophobia after 9/11, it is easy to forget the humanity of the people who have no choice but to live in unpopular states, like in Iran. The film is a reminder of their humanity, our common humanity: of GOODNESS, CARING, CONCERN, GENEROSITY, LOVE.
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