This Oscar-nominated drama from Iranian director Majid Majidi begins as a heartfelt tale of plucky street urchins but soon reveals a deeper story of the grim realities for those who are most vulnerable.
Ali (Roohollah Zamani) is the pugnacious leader of his street gang, constantly working and scheming just to get food on the table. All have fathers who are absent, either through drugs, prison or, in Ali’s case, death, and this seems to ensure they live a hand-to-mouth existence. It is hard for Ali to resist a request of a local gangster that he and his friends enrol in a local school so that they can search for ‘treasure’ in the storm water drains beneath.
As Ali digs and labours, unable to resist the promise of a pay out that can transform his life and that of his friends, we see harsh realities play out around him, from the abuse of lesser-status Afghans to the imminent closure of the school due to lack of funds. Sun School is especially for street kids and Vice Principal Rafie (Javad Ezati) is the only adult in the lives of the boys who seems to not want to exploit them.
With an eye for the visual beauty within a messy, dilapidated and unforgiving world, Majidi’s camera perches high and tracks through sewer tunnels and empty buildings, showing us a perspective that none within the story would have the luxury to see. Zamani is extraordinary, carrying the weight of the narrative with his perpetual frown and wide-eyed determination.
The ending hits just the right note for a film that is trying to elevate the plight of street kids everywhere.
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