Children of Heaven

Children of Heaven

Iranian cinema captures childhood memories & mannerisms like no other culture. The days before, during & after school are forever engrained in my memory, yet for some distant reason I never seem to remember the specific differences between yesterday & tomorrow. A film like this reminds you of numerous brief yesterday’s you thought had vanished entirely.

The film manages to perfectly emulate a non-verbal main character that doesn’t use communication with his superiors to get what he wants, rather he uses teary eyes & head-on bull approaches coupled by repetitive sentences.
Similarly, when we were younger we weren’t the best communicators to articulate our deepest desires & wants. 

At some point in the film Ali needed to get 3rd place to win a pair of shoes—he didn’t want 2nd nor 1st, but third. So he tried his best to not win the race quickly, but instead reach third place just before hitting the finish line. 

His mentality took me back to my past, when I was seven years old and in grade 2. I had written a story for school as my English homework & the teachers were thrilled. They loved my work. They said I could be a promising writer, a prodigy of sorts. After I submitted my work they took me to an empty classroom and asked me to read what I wrote. I was shy. I couldn’t read in front of three grown adults. Of course I didn’t say a word, I just remained silent.

Then one teacher had an idea,

“I’ll give you 1000 dirhams if you read the passage of your story.” She said.

Intrigued by her sudden proposal my mind jumped to all sorts of places, I wanted to say yes & read my homework out loud, it wasn’t a big deal, I had read my work numerous times in front of my classmates & English teacher. It wasn’t anything new to me. Given my history they expected me to accept very easily, but for some reason I didn’t. I was waiting for something bigger. Despite knowing all the things I could get with that price tag, I waited quietly & shook my head without saying a word.

Another teacher then spoke up & said:

“How about 2000 dirhams, would you read it then?”

This time my heart raced faster. The number not only increased, but doubled! 2000 dirhams was a lot of money to me. Not that I was extremely poor or needed it for essential living, but I never made an honest pay before. I was a kid, the hell did I know about wages? The only thing I knew was 2000 dirhams was a lot. And I almost certainly could’ve gotten everything a child dreamed of. Everything but one. My heart hoped for that one special thing & all I needed was one more price bump.

Since I was an adolescent, I always dreamed of owning a “Darrajah.” The Arabic word for a motorcycle. I had always seen it in videos & deserts, riden by kids my age. They did all kinds of maneuvers and had so much fun. I so wanted one of my own to ride whenever I pleased in my neighborhood.

It was something every kid dreamed of in my class—everyone I ever met actually. It was the coolest of cool. The funnest of all fun. 

The price for one? 3000 dirhams. That’s the number my dad promised me. He said he’d buy me one if I were a good student in school. But now I had the chance to get it without his help,  all I needed was one brave teacher to raise the stakes & give me the number I wanted so badly. 
 
They never did. They stopped at two thousand & I never spoke up. I’m sure if I spoke up they would’ve easily settled for that figure. But I was a kid. Just like Ali in this film. I couldn’t speak. All I could do was shake my head & hope they spoke the language of a child’s innocent heart.