Majid Majidi’s Iranian drama condemning child labour.
Sun Children was co-written, co- produced and directed by Majid Majidi who made Children of Heaven, the first Iranian film nominated for an Academy Award in a foreign language in 1997. It has been nominated for the same award this year.
It is dedicated to “the 152 million children forced into child labour” because they need to support their families, which Majidi says is a universal problem that should concern us all.
Freckled faced and with a permanent worried look 12 year old Ali (Roohollah Zamani) is the boss of a gang of three thieves (Reza, Mamad and Albolfazl, who is a refugee from Afghanistan) who steal wheels from expensive cars to order for a tyre yard – when they are not doing small jobs and other petty crimes.
He is encouraged by a grubby local criminal, who is a pigeon fancier, to enrol with his gang in The School of the Sun in order to search for unspecified treasure which is buried in a tunnel near a graveyard under the school. He says “bring it to me and you will be set for life”.
The school is overcrowded and underfunded by donations which are hard to find. It provides free education for hundreds of boys by dedicated and stressed teachers who try to direct the children’s energies into sport and learning, and hopefully send them on to high school. The gang plead to be admitted, and refuse to leave until they are enrolled by the principal Mr Refie (Javad Ezzati).
The boy’s fathers are either dead, in prison or “absent”, and Ali’s mother is in a psychiatric institution. He has plans to make a home for her with some of the proceeds from the buried treasure.
Ali makes excuses to leave classes to explore the tunnel and begins digging with a pickaxe through metres of earth, rock, and muddy water with a dedication driven by excitement and expectation of the reward. It is dangerous work (aided by a musical score by Ramin Kousha with a quiet constant rumbling sound that engenders tension).
Most of the cast are non-professional actors and the real life children live on the streets. Majidi saw 1000s of kids before making his choice. The events are seen through Ali’s eyes, and he is predicted to have a future in the movie industry.
This is a very watchable and unsentimental movie showing life as it is for Iran’s underclass and Afghan refugees.
Spoken in Farsi, with English subtitles.
Showing at UWA Somerville, Nedlands from Monday 22nd February to Sunday 28th at 8 pm.
Watch the trailer…