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A View of Iranian Family Life, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1114

Essay

Majid Majidi’s ”Children of Heaven” is a wonderful window into the culture and physical environment of an Iranian family, seen mostly through the vision of the two children who are the central characters in the film, Ali and Zahra.  The action in the film takes place within the lives of this brother and sister, and despite the challenges and hardship that characterize their lives in a low-income family, their life is essentially sweet.This is because of the strength of their relationship as well as those friends and family surrounding them.  This paper will discuss two major themes in the film which are central to its beauty and plot: the family’s values, ties, and social networks as well as the very real cultural and emotional differences between the elites and the poverty-stricken.  My thesis is that despite their lack of riches, the family of Ali and Zahra has given them the emotional values and social resources that place them in a superior positionthat is in stark contrast to that of the wealthy in the society in which they live.  In addition, their loving connections with each other are in clear contrast with the isolated, empty existences of the affluent in that same culture.  They are actually the Children of Heaven.

Even when struggling with poverty, people have found ways to maintain positive personal relationships (Social Psychology, Chapter 6.) This is demonstrated in many ways in “Children of Heaven” through the selflessness and generous nature of Ali and Zahra and their parents, which is demonstrated throughout the film. This is shown by the family’s gestures such as their tradition of preparing sugar cubes for the congregation at their mosque as well as the way Zahra helps to provide care for her elderly neighbors. These are parents that have instilled the values of generosity of spirit and compassion in their children, and the central focus of the film reflects the desire of the children to protect their parents from the hardship of knowing that Zahra needs new sneakers.  There is example after example of the pure goodness of these children, such as when Zahra traces her sneakers to the home of a girl who is now wearing them but decides to simplydrop the issue when she sees that the father with whom the girl lives is blind.  When Ali enters the race towards the end of the film, rather than aspire to get the first place prize, two weeks at a summer camp which would certainly be a delightful opportunity for a child of his station, instead he does the unselfish thing by trying to end up in third place in order to win a pair of sneakers for his sister.

These are children who have a tremendous amount of respect, love, and loyalty to their parents, which is exemplified in many ways. For example, they decide to exchange the one pair of sneakers they have far from the school because they do not want the rest of their neighborhood to believe that their parents are unable to afford to buy shoes for their children. This results in their own hardship because both children have to run quickly and a longer distance in order to pass the sneakers to the other one so that they will not be seen, and are completely motivated by their protectiveness of their parents’ honor. These parents have instilled many worthwhile values in their children, which include obedience to their elders, as when Ali is not paying adequate attention to his mother and his father reprimands him. Zahra is charged with tending to her newborn sister, a mixed blessing because she is learning to be responsible and nurturing while at the same time she is forfeiting the carefree abandon that ideally comes with being a child. Nevertheless, the sense of honor and obligation that these children demonstrate over and over in the film make it clear that they have been raised in a household that promotes decency and responsibility as well as love for others.

The differences between the haves and the have-nots are painfully portrayed in the film in great detail; for instance, Ali’s family consistently has fewer options available to them such as the less appealing potatoes that they can afford as well as utilizing the wool of a garment by unraveling it in order to use it to make something else.  The importance of losing a pair of shoes, the central plot of the film, is particularly devastating because the family simply doesn’t have the money to buy a new pair so that the loss of the sneakers takes on tremendous importance.  Nevertheless, this is a happy home where there is much love between family members.  Their poverty stricken existence is in great contrast with the high-rises and luxury homes where the affluent people in this society reside.  The affection between Ali and Zahra and their parents is in stark contrast with the apparently lonely existence of the young boy who lives in the house where Ali’s father has taken him to find gardening work.  This boy is so starved for companionship and connection that he immediately attaches to Ali, seeking to become his great friend.  When he speaks with Ali over the intercom, he jumps at the chance to play with another child, waking up his grandfather to beg him to give Ali’s father work just so that he can spend some time with a boyclose to his own age.  When Ali leaves, he is the one who gives a gift to the rich boy, the teddy bear.  This is the way that the movie reinforces the clear contrast between the material riches of the elites vs. the poverty stricken with the emotional riches, or lack thereof, of those same two groups.  In the film, the wealthy community is very isolated behind the gates of their homes, not even connecting with their neighbors while the members of the slum clearly look out for each other.

“Children of Heaven” is a beautiful film that demonstrates the values inherent in the strength and riches of a family that lacks material resources, as compared with the wealthy people who have a lot of material goods but are without emotional resources.  Ali and Zahra have been raised by parents who have instilled the strongest of family values which has made them decent, loyal and valuable members of their culture.  Their lives are rich, even though they are not.  The film’s title begs the questions, who are the actual children of Heaven (the rich or the poor?), where exactly is it (in the rich neighborhoods or the slums?) and who gets to goes there? My takeaway is that the poverty-stricken family is living in their own Heaven.

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