|Children of Heaven|
|Directed by||Majid Majidi|
|Written by||Majid Majidi|
|Edited by||Hassan Hassandoost|
|Music by||Keivan Jahanshahi|
The Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children & Young Adults
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||US$1.6 million|
Children of Heaven (Persian: بچههای آسمان, romanized: Bæccähâ-ye âsmân) is a 1997 Iranian family drama film written and directed by Majid Majidi. The plot follows a brother and sister, and their adventures over a lost pair of shoes. It received positive reviews, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1998.
Nine-year-old Ali fetches his six-year-old sister Zahra's pink shoes after a cobbler has repaired them. While purchasing potatoes, Ali leaves the shoes, hidden in a bag, outside among the vegetables. A homeless man unknowingly picks up the bag, thinking it is garbage. Frantic, Ali, thinking the shoes fell behind the crates, knocks over the display and is chased away by the grocer.
Ali's family, living in a poor South Tehran neighbourhood, has financial troubles, so he fears to tell his parents. The landlord argues with Ali's mother because she is five months behind on rent, and the grocer has not been paid in a while either. Ali tells Zahra about the shoes and begs her not to tell their mother; she agrees. That night, Ali's father scolds him for not helping his ill mother. As the siblings do their homework, they pass notes to each other discussing how to cope with their predicament. They ultimately devise a scheme to share Ali's Converse sneakers: Zahra will wear them to school in the morning and return them to Ali at midday so he can attend afternoon classes. Ali, among two others, scores high on a test and his teacher awards him a gold-colored pen; he gives it to Zahra to partially make up for losing her shoes. However, the uncomfortable arrangement leads to Ali being late three times in a row, no matter how hard he runs; the first time, the principal ignores him, the second, he receives a warning, the third, Ali is ordered to leave and return with his hardworking father. Ali's teacher, noticing Ali's tears, persuades the principal that Ali is top of his class and to give the boy one more chance.
One day, Zahra notices her missing pink shoes on another student, Roya's, feet. After class, Zahra secretly follows Roya home. She later brings Ali with her for a confrontation, but from hiding, they discover that Roya's father is blind, and leave without further action. When Roya does well in her studies, her father buys her new violet shoes and throws away Zahra's. Zahra is dismayed when she finds out from her new friend.
Ali's father, anxious to earn more, borrows some gardening equipment and heads off with Ali to the rich suburbs of North Tehran to find gardening work. They try many places without success, though Ali proves to be a great help to his tongue-tied father. They happen upon a mansion wherein a six-year-old boy named Alireza lives under the care of his grandfather. While Ali plays with Alireza, his father works. When finished, Ali's father is surprised and elated by how generous the grandfather is. On the way home, Ali mentions in passing that Zahra could use a new pair of shoes; his father says that new shoes for his children is a good idea. However, their elation is short lived as their bicycle's brakes fail and the father is injured in the resulting crash.
Finally, Ali learns of a high-profile children's 4-kilometer footrace involving many schools in the province; the third prize is one week at a vacation camp and a pair of sneakers. Ali sees this as his chance to earn a new pair of shoes for Zahra. To his bitter disappointment, in a hard-fought dash to the finish, he accidentally places first. Ali returns home where Zahra is waiting for him. However, before he can reveal to his sister his disappointment in his placement, she is called away by their mother. In a separate scene, there is a quick shot of the children's father's bicycle as he's riding home, showing a pair of white and a pair of pink shoes among his purchases. In the final shot, Ali, dejected as his sneakers are torn from the race, is shown dipping his bare blistered feet in a pool.
Some versions include an epilogue, revealing that Ali eventually achieves success in a racing career.
- Amir Farrokh Hashemian as Ali
- Bahare Seddiqi as Zahra
- Reza Naji as Father
- Fereshte Sarabandi as Mother
- Dariush Mokhtari as Ali's teacher
- Nafise Jafar-Mohammadi as Roya
- Mohammed-Hasan Hosseinian as Roya's father
- Mohammed-Hossein Shahidi as Alireza
- Kazem Asqarpoor as Grandfather
- Christopher Maleki as Sugar seller
The film was shot in Tehran. It was attempted to keep the filming secret in order to capture a more realistic image of the city. The production costs have been estimated at US$180,000. The film was distributed by Miramax.
Children of Heaven premiered in February 1997 at the Tehran Fajr Film Festival and was awarded several national film awards. It opened in the US on January 22, 1999, and earned a US box office total of $933,933. The worldwide total was $1,628,579.
Critical response to the film was highly positive. Some critics compared it to Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948). Roger Ebert's review in the Chicago Sun-Times called it "very nearly a perfect movie for children" that "lacks the cynicism and smart-mouth attitudes of so much American entertainment for kids and glows with a kind of good-hearted purity".
In 1998, it became the first Iranian film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, losing to the Italian film Life Is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni. The majority of its US earnings came after the nomination was announced. After the film had become well known worldwide due to the Oscar nomination, it was shown in several European, South American, and Asian countries between 1999 and 2001. It was successfully shown in numerous film festivals and won awards at the Fajr Film Festival, the World Film Festival, the Newport International Film Festival, the Warsaw International Film Festival, and the Singapore International Film Festival. It competed for the Grand Prize at the American Film Institute's festival of 1997.
While watching the film, Singaporean filmmaker Jack Neo and his wife were moved to "holding hands and crying after seeing the love shared by the children". Children of Heaven inspired Neo to explore issues faced by Singaporean youths in his 2002 film I Not Stupid.
In the United Kingdom, the film was watched by 100,000 viewers on ITV in 2008, making it the year's most-watched foreign-language film on ITV. It was later watched by 100,000 UK viewers on ITV in 2009, again making it the year's most-watched foreign-language film on ITV. Combined, the film drew a 200,000 UK viewership on ITV between 2008 and 2009.
- Homerun, a 2003 Singaporean film by Jack Neo, is an adaptation of Children of Heaven, but its theme is friendship and it is set in 1965 Singapore.
- Bumm Bumm Bole, a 2010 Indian Hindi film by Priyadarshan, and starring Darsheel Safary, is entirely based on Children of Heaven.
- Akka Kuruvi, a 2022 Indian Tamil film by Samy, is the official remake of Children of Heaven.
- List of submissions to the 71st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Iranian submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
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