Sunday, May 9, 2010

Children of Heaven

Majidi makes poverty an adventure, infuses simplicity into everyday life and makes it magical. Children of Heaven is a story of a brother(Ali) and sister(Zahra) trying to manage their lives with a secret to share (Ali loses Zahra's old pair of shoes,after getting them repaired,on his way from the cobblers). Ali and Zahra share the same pair of shoes, Zahra runs home all the way from school and Ali wears the pair and runs to school...
This heart warming film is about Ali's guilt, generosity, understanding of responsibility and their everyday mishaps when they try to share the same pair of shoes...
Typical Majidi style, with the kids as heroes leading the way to a new world by effortlessly lighting hope; An angry,helpless father burdened by responsibilities and poverty; The ambiguous and yet unambiguous, uplifting, and pointless ending - as if the point lies in the rest of the film and the end was only incidental. Such a must watch, for the innocence of kids, to rekindle optimism into the drudgery of everyday life

The class

To sum up, The class, is a film on melting pot identities and nuances...its a peephole into a 8th Std class in urban France portraying diversity at its best (students from diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds belonging to different nationalities - Chinese, French, Moroccan, Slovakian, West Indies et al.)

So we see, an adolescent class of rebellious and confused kids...who are all trying to come to terms with their sexuality, figure out who they want to be loyal to - France or the nation they come from - when there is a football match going on, question their teacher about why he used Bill and not Ahmed in his example "Bill is going to have a burger", who they want to be when they grow up, what they are embarrassed about (answers range from 'my ears' to 'eating with my friend's mom').. and so on...
This identity confusion and conflict is brought up in a million places in the when Marin (the French teacher) asked kids to write their names and pin it up on their desks, every kid does it in his own unique with a flag of his nation, one with pink color and flowers et al..such a simple act infused with expression and individuality...Most of these scenes are really subtle...the director does not try to make any one point, he only realistically depicts a class
Through the movie, we traverse through the confusions and opinions of these different students' with different personalities - some rebellious, some shy, some grudging, some bullies, some petite, some perpetually in their own world,some sincere..but each with his own voice and story

The best part about this movie is that - visually, it shows a class through the eyes of a teacher...the camera sweeps through the class,with many students doing different things and shifts focus from one part/student to another section, all the while leaving the class to be real, alive and thriving.So even if the camera shifts focus, the class is always there,with the many students constantly doing different things

The class is also about an education system with its flaws and the many teachers who breathe life into it..particularly about Marin, with his best intentions, and limitations in capabilities.
Wanting the best for his students, he encourages a tough Suleyman to take up photography, tries to understand his students through their aspirations and biographies, and fights for them with the other cynical, indifferent teachers who want to 'systemize' every 'process', explaining that students are more human than to neatly fit into processes and expelling difficult students is only a temporary and unhealthy solution
But Marin, not being perfect, also loses his temper,calls some of his students 'cheap' and fights with them saying 'As a teacher I am allowed to say certain things that you can't'..(This scene to me, is about the power equation that a teacher shares with the class, and a teacher has to be able to understand and handle that power...students can't be at par with you when you are teaching them. However this power needs to be earned, and well - guarded, for the punishments for mistakes of a teacher are far higher, and more morally weighty).But this true depiction of Marin is what touched my heart, because that's exactly how things are - imperfect - be it the system, students or the teachers - and acknowledging them is the first step to understanding and improvisation

The class delves into so many themes related to school and the education system and Marin with his flaws, mistakes, realisations, best intentions and genuine efforts is so so relatable!