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Film / Children of Heaven

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Children of Heaven is a 1997 film directed by Majid Majidi.

The story centers around a poor family in Tehran, Iran, consisting of a mom, a dad who makes what seems to be an inadequate salary serving tea in a mosque, 10-year-old Ali, and his little sister Zahra. They are behind on the rent for their threadbare little apartment, and they are poor enough that Ali and Zahra each have exactly one pair of shoes that are adequate to wear to school.

So it's a big problem when Ali, who took Zahra's ratty, torn shoes to get them repaired, loses them by accidentally leaving them on a homeless man's cart. Ali, fearing his father's wrath and knowing full well that the family is too poor to buy shoes, swears Zahra to secrecy. They wind up having to share Ali's ratty, torn sneakers. Eventually, Ali finds out a way out of his dilemma: a children's 4K footrace which is offering, for third place, a pair of sneakers.


  • Agony of the Feet: The last scene has Ali peeling off his crumbling sneakers to reveal that his feet are sore and bleeding after running the 4K race. The film ends with Ali soaking his feet in the fountain outside the apartment building.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Sort of. Technically, Ali and Zahra are never barefoot. But they have only one pair of school shoes between them—one torn, dirty pair of shoes—which causes each of them a lot of problems.
  • Big Game: The climax is a 4K race in which Ali can win the pair of sneakers that he so badly needs—but only if he finishes third.
  • Cool Teacher: The one teacher who takes up for Ali and talks the Stern Teacher into letting Ali into school after Ali is late (because he has to switch shoes with his sister).
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A story of a poor family facing the prospect of eviction from their apartment, and a little boy who has to figure out how to get his sister a pair of shoes.
  • Match Cut:
    • From a scene of rain in a show on TV, to actual rain outside the family's window. Ali has to retrieve the sneakers, which he left outside.
    • From Ali running in the 4K race, to a flashback of his sister running from school, in order to switch out shoes with Ali.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Another boy in the lead pack deliberately pushes Ali to the ground towards the end of the race.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Several shots from Ali's POV of the last few meters of the 4K race.
  • Re-Cut: Some versions of this film include an epilogue in which Ali is revealed to have achieved success as a racer. Other don't.
  • Second Prize: Ali doesn't want to win the race and get two weeks in a kids' camp. He doesn't want to place second and get one week in a kids' camp. He wants to finish third, and get the third-place prize: a new pair of shoes that he badly needs. To his despair, he wins.
  • Stern Teacher: Ali keeps being late for school because he has to switch out the sneakers with his sister. This results in him continually running into a teacher who is walking the hallways. The Stern Teacher winds up throwing Ali out of school and telling him to come back with his father, but as Ali's leaving a Cool Teacher walks up and talks the stern teacher into letting Ali into school.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Ali is left crying with despair after he wins the race instead of finishing third, and thus doesn't get the shoes. What he doesn't know is that his father, who has gotten work as a gardener, has just bought new shoes for both him and his sister.
  • Time-Passes Montage: The father's quest for a gardening job is dramatized by a series of scenes where the father and Ali ring on doorbells, looking for work. One time the father runs from an Angry Guard Dog.