Interview: Iranian director of "Sun Children" says providing education is best way to help street kids

  • World
  • Sunday, 13 Sep 2020

VENICE, Italy, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Public organizations and kind people are often giving food and money to street kids, but the more infrastructural way to help them is providing education, Iranian film director Majid Majidi has said to a group of reporters.

Majidi has presented his film "Sun Children" (or "The Sun") in competition at the 77th Venice Film Festival, which was held from Sept. 2 to Sept. 12. His young workmate Ruhollah Zamani, the protagonist in the film, won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor on Saturday.

"Sun Children" tells a story of 12-year-old Ali and his three friends. Together, they work hard to survive and support their families, doing small jobs at a garage and committing petty crimes to make fast money.

In a turn of events that seems miraculous, Ali is entrusted to find a hidden "treasure" underground. He recruits his gang, but first, to gain access to the tunnel, the children must enroll at the Sun School, a charitable institution that tries to educate street kids and child laborers, close to where the treasure is located.

In the end, they find no treasure, but thanks to the school, one of Ali's friends obtains skills to enter a math competition, while another has the chance to become a football player, according to the drama film.

"I have always been inspired by films made by children since my very first movies," said Majidi, whose drama "Children of Heaven" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1999.

Majidi did not want to depict the children as victims. In his opinion, Ali is a hero. He even tells the adult teacher how to fight. And Ali is a fighter for life. "I present these kids more like a voiceless part of the society and I want to be the one who could spread their message," he said.

For Majidi, the children are the vulnerable part of society, therefore they need a sort of "spokesperson." Treasure is a metaphor in the film's story. They are looking for a treasure that is supposed to be hidden somewhere, but the real treasure is inside them.

According to Majidi, the message of the film is universal -- the most important thing is to find the way to reach that "treasure," and this is going to change the whole world and the future of humanity. "If we provide a better future for these kids it will mean a better future for us as well," he said.

"These are street kids that have had tough times, (and) they are more adult in a sense than other kids of their own age. Communicating and explaining things to them was easier because they were very open to learning on set."

A key element for Majidi was "respect." "It was a very important element while working with these kids, because they have been disrespected all their lives."

When offered fruit and pastries before starting work, the kids would grab and eat without asking, in an ill-mannered way. "They had this bad manner in the street when they were asking for money, so I taught them good manners and that respect can be earned."

The result was positive and after six months' work, at the end of the learning process, while at the table, the kids were now politely waiting their turn before eating. "If we respect them, they will respect us too," Majidi said.

The Iranian director explained that the story is related to him personally. "I've come from a poor background and there was no one to protect me or be my voice. I remember those painful days, so when I look at these kids and I can see myself."

"I have this tenderness and love towards them. I might sound cheesy but that's what I feel," he added.

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