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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Children of Heaven is a beautiful, Oscar-nominated Iranian film that's both a fascinating story of contemporary Iran and a universal coming-of-age tale. Because it's set in Iran, the characters speak Farsi, which makes this problematic for younger viewers, but for everyone else, Children of Heaven is a wonderful film about a family doing their best to pull together in spite of great financial difficulty. Some minor scuffles and accidents are the only minor concern.
What's the story?
In CHILDREN OF HEAVEN , after third grader Ali picks up his sister Zahra's shoes from the cobbler, they are mistakenly taken by a passerby while Ali is stopping off at a produce stand. Since they are the only pair of shoes Zahra owns and they both fear angering their father over this calamity, Ali must share his only pair and they trade off for each other's days at school. As Ali tries to make this arrangement work and as he and his family try and figure out ways to earn a living, there is an announcement at Ali's school about a running competition. Ali enrolls in the hopes of winning third prize: a new pair of shoes.
Is it any good?
This is an incredible coming-of-age film, a beautifully rendered encapsulation of the trials and suspense of childhood no matter where you live. It's a moving story about the universal bonds of family as well as the specific circumstances of a poor family trying to make ends meet in Iran. The climax of the film is exciting reinterpretation of the "comeback kid" sports movie, and it takes many unanticipated twists and turns.
This was the first Iranian film to earn an Academy Award nomination, and with good reason. The themes and characters are universal and the story is as exciting as it is poignant. Children of Heaven is one of those magical films that breaks down perceived barriers and differences between cultures, an enlightening and entertaining cinematic journey.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how daily life in Iran is depicted in Children of Heaven. Knowing what you know about Iran through the news, what surprises you with the daily realities of these children, their parents, friends, neighbors?
What similarities and differences do you see in the Iranian schools these children attend compared to the schools you attend?
Aside from the poverty they must contend with and the cultural differences, how is the relationship between Ali and his sister Zahra similar to that of brothers and sisters everywhere?
- In theaters: January 22, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: January 6, 2012
- Cast: Amir Farrokh Hashemian, Bahare Sadiqi, Mohammad Amir Naji
- Director: Majid Majidi
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Character Strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild language
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