V. Lepistö 🏳️🌈’s review published on Letterboxd:
Waited so many years to finally see this and it's truly a heartbreaking work where an adult's world slips into the children's world so insidiously, bringing its cruelty with it. Our protagonist is an energetic young girl wanting to go to school in conflict-ridden Afghanistan but she is always stopped by an obstacle. At first, she solves them but ultimately the war games that the young boys play are drawing her in and there seems to be no escape. Hana Makhmalbaf's camera follows her usually on her level, trying to give us her experience of the world as she tries to survive in a kind of intermediate state that doesn't resemble a kid's or adult's world entirely.
The film which brings to mind the great works of neorealism doesn't pale in comparison to them and the allegorical approach that often defines Iranian (indie) filmmaking doesn't take anything away from the focus on character and environment. If anything, it brings us closer to understanding the reality of children living in a highly oppressive patriarchal society where war is a constant companion. It also reveals the true nature of 21st-century wars: nightmarish conflicts that can suddenly explode at any time and drag on forever, corrupting the whole society, forcing people to take sides, and leaving none untouched. Among Amir Naderi's Harmonica (1974), Kiarostami's Where is the Friend's House? (1987), Mohammad Ali Talebi's The Boot (1993), Panahi's The Mirror (1997), Majidi's Children of Heaven (1997), Samira Makhmalbaf's The Apple (1998) and Marzieh Meshkini's (also writer here) Stray Dogs (2004), Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame stands as the most ambitious work of children-centered "mission films".