A pot of gold, the solution will be for Ali (Ruhollah Zamani) and his comrades, who live as street children in Tehran and hire themselves for dubious clients. The boys are always in a hurry, always under pressure, and often panic when they steal tires and have to flee the police. They are enslaved in the workshops, exploited and pushed.
There is no other way, the parents are absent, in prison, drug addicts or deceased, Ali’s mother is in the hospital, seriously injured after a house fire. Ali would like to bring her home – to a home that no longer exists.
Moreover, just beyond that, the camera rushes with him through everyday life. She rarely allows herself to look up at the sky over Tehran, at the flocks of pigeons. Now Ali is supposed to find this so-called treasure with the others, to which the underground passages lead.
The entrance is in the basement of the school. So they attend school, hoping for an end to their hard suffering, because they don’t have to run for their lives day in and day out.
[Behalten Sie den Überblick: Jeden Morgen ab 6 Uhr berichten Chefredakteur Lorenz Maroldt und sein Team im Tagesspiegel-Newsletter Checkpoint über die aktuellsten Entwicklungen rund um das Coronavirus. Jetzt kostenlos anmelden: checkpoint.tagesspiegel.de.]
Iranian director Majid Majidi, born in 1959, often tells stories in his films about children and young people living in poverty. In Children of Heaven, two brothers share one pair of shoes; “Colors of Heaven” is about a blind boy; In the movie Rain, an Afghan girl disguises herself as a boy in order to be able to function.
Teachers work too, often in vain
Education also seems to be the director in “Children of the Sun”, also known from the Iranian masterpieces of Abbas Kyawrastami. As Ali, Mamad, Reza, and a young Albanian immigrant, Abu Fazal, use every free minute they sneak into the school basement to dig a tunnel there, they increasingly ask themselves what is the greater treasure in the end – supposed gold or the fruits of learning.
One of these guys is skilled at engineering because it turns out he worked for a tile. The other, as a football talent, gets an offer to train in a famous club. Why more digging?
But it is not that easy. The film “Children of the Sun” is not only about child labor, but about the fate of children and adults alike. Ali toils in the basement and his teacher (Jawad al-Zari) is in class. No matter how committed he and his colleagues may be, the Shams School for Street Children – such NGO-run institutions already in Tehran – are permanently under threat. The police intervened, the employees migrated, and there was no money and no guarantors. At some point the school bell didn’t work anymore.
However, the teacher does not stop fighting for the hearts and minds of children, striving for understanding with them. For example, by having Ali explain his best tricks. One day he will need them too.
[Ab Donnerstag in den Berliner Kinos Acud, Delphi Lux, b-ware! Ladenkino, fsk, Moviemento, Sputnik, Zukunft, überwiegend OmU]
It is amazing that director Majidi was even able to perceive a drama of social grievances under the conditions of censorship from the mullah regime. A number of children were filmed on the street, including Abu Fadel and his sister, who plays Zahra in the film, illegally selling sponges on the subway. As an Afghani, she is also under threat of deportation, she also wants to move forward, and is studying hard for the sake of school.
Even more surprising is how Majidi manages to give his heroes not only the elements of action-adventure films (a nerve-wracking digging in the tunnel) but also poetic moments, despite all the hardships. “Sun Children” defends hope, joy of life, and humor against the primacy of realism. Ali, like his mentor, ends up in the next circle of hell – no treasure can save them. But you dread with them until the last minute.
Wasted effort, traitorous generation, wasted? Even the darkest disappointment cannot harm the brief happiness of bathing in a city fountain.