The Song of Sparrows

Posted by schnolis on May 20th, 2009 filed in Reviews

THE SONG OF SPARROWSIt is undeniable that human beings have spread to all corners of the globe. We inhabit almost any environment, speak all sorts of language, and have many different cultural beliefs that make us all distinct from each other. But despite those dissimilarities, people everywhere do develop some common perspectives. Karim (Mohammad Amir Naji) lives in a rural Iranian community near Tehran. Karim is a dreamer, one of those people who’s always hoping to find a better job, a new way of doing something, or a happier existence than the one he’s in.

Life in his small world is difficult. He’s employed harvesting ostrich eggs and caring for the unusual birds. He cares about his work, and does it well for the most part. One day, though, while attempting to prevent a co-worker from abusing an animal, an ostrich escapes from the pen. Despite the chase he and about a dozen other people give, the bird escapes and Karim is fired. When his wife asks why he has brought home his work clothes, he tells her he’s going to look for a better job. On a trip into Tehran he discovers he can taxi people around on the back of his motorbike and make a living that way. His mind is always scheming, though. He finds abandoned junk and brings it home to repair. He pleads to be allowed to carry goods for local merchants. One man even puts him to work unloading boxes into his home. All the while Karim is earning for his family and stashing some money away to pay his debts.

All during the film, the boys of the village, one of whom is Karim’s son, are showing their own entrepreneurial spirit. They’ve hatched a scheme to try to raise goldfish in the local water reservoir, a murky muddy pit that doesn’t seem likely to support their enterprise. But they persevere, taking turns cleaning out the scum and raising the sum that will be required to purchase the fish to cultivate. All the while, Karim does his best to discourage their plan. He believes the whole thing to be futile and unproductive. When the kids’ plan miserably fails, the boys are heartbroken, and we see human nature once again independently shine through Karim. He empathizes with their pain, and doesn’t take the opportunity to lecture them or to talk down to them. Instead, he sings them a song, joining their moment of sorrow and shattered dreams.

What I liked: Karim’s hopeful, dreamy nature. It would be a stretch to say he’s an optimist, but he was the kind of man who you grow to like and even admire, in a “I’m glad I’m not him” kind of way. His tough love is out of true concern for his family and friends, and he never gives up on them. The movie was beautifully shot, very intimate. The boys crusade to become millionaires is so easy to relate to. These kids acted like kids, not adults in miniature packages.

What I disliked: Karim took a while to get to like. He was gruff, dirty, and selfish in some ways. Maybe that’s the only way to make the payoff at the end really resonate, but it was kinda hard for me to like him. It’s also difficult for me to watch movies about cultures where women play such a deferential role. All the real action in the movie is done by men or boys, who are allowed the foolish dreaming while the women stay home and cook and clean.

Rating: 6 of 10

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