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Children Of Heaven

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Iranian writer/director Majid Majidi's 1996 film The Father was filmed from a child's point of view, and his splendid, wonderfully shot Children Of Heaven features a similar perspective. When Mir Farrokh Hashemian loses his sister Bahareh Seddiqi's just-mended sneakers, the two siblings must share one ratty pair of canvas running shoes without alerting their poor parents to their plight. Seddiqi, jealous of her classmates, longs for new sneakers, while Hashemian, feeling guilty, wants nothing more than to help his sister. The premise is deceptively simple, as this film about children navigating through an adult world gradually begins to take on a more socioeconomic meaning. Majidi uses the quest for shoes to reveal the wide class gap in contemporary Tehran: Every child seems to have a different pair, ranging from plain sandals to ornate sneakers, and a family's wealth is often determined via the fancy footwear on display in the schoolyard. Majidi masterfully balances the serious subtext with entertaining vignettes, such as a trip uptown where Hashemian and his father care for the lawns of the privileged few or an invitational long-distance race where, for Hashemian, winning might actually mean losing. While Children Of Heaven is as bright and well-paced as the best Disney films—a poetic shot of a boy's blistered feet soaking in a glistening goldfish pond is particularly magical—Majidi avoids easy sentimentality, delivering an unexpected conclusion that provides a surprising change of pace.