The films we screened
Our choice was simple. We chose what we think are the best five kids' films made anywhere in the world!
Fingers stretch to pick up a red boot in the rain.
The Boot
The Boot
IRAN, 1992, MOHAMAD ALI TALEBI

The Boot was the first film I decided to show in Goptapa, because it’s one of the best films about childhood I’ve ever seen. It’s about a stroppy wee girl who pesters her mum to buy her a pair of red boots. The girl falls asleep on the bus, one of the boots falls off, but they’re home before they notice that it’s missing. They look for it but then a neighbourhood boy, Ali, starts his own search, which takes him across the city of Tehran.


Like Spielberg, Talebi is a master of child performances. Again and again in this film we recognise the traits of children that we know, or ourselves. Through Kanun, the Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, Iran has become one of the leading countries for fine-grained children’s cinema and the scene where Ali gets soaked in the rain because he’s afraid to pass a snarling dog in an alleyway, is a gem, and a tribute to master director Abbas Kiarostami’s Kanun film on the same theme. As in ET, the dad is absent (a photo of him on the mantelpiece suggests that he was killed in the Iran-Iraq war). Ali’s desire to help the wee girl is imaginative, selfless and brave and makes The Boot one of the greatest films about community ever made. It should be shown in the United Nations.

Unfortunately this great film is not yet available on DVD.  Email us if you want to see it released and we'll forward your messages!

Three boys sit in silhouette watching E.T.
ET: The Extraterrestrial
ET: The Extraterrestrial
USA, 1982, STEVEN SPIELBERG

On our first visit to Goptapa we noticed that the kids talked about wanting to fly, and that they loved zooming around on bikes. We couldn’t resist showing them ET: The Extraterrestrial, Steven Spielberg’s great film about friendship and soaring bikes. We love the fact that this story of a boy, Elliot, who befriends a creature from another world, is much gentler than its Reaganite times. Elliot’s dad is absent, which we thought would strike a chord in Iraq, and particularly in the North, where Saddam’s gassings killed many men. And the story, by Spielberg and Melissa Mathieson, is neither cocky nor idealistic about America – the federal authorities lack Elliot’s empathy for ET, for example. It’s this honesty about families, and community, about kids and loneliness that combines with the pure wonder, rapture and fun of the film to make ET such a beautiful work of magic realism. The Goptapa kids loved it…

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A little boy at a washstand.
Palle Alone In The World
Palle Alone In The World
DENMARK, 1949, ASTRID HENNING-JENSEN

Astrid Henning Jensen made wonderful films between 1941 and 1996. Paw in 1959 and the feature Winterborn in 1978 won awards at Cannes and Berlin film festivals, and this film, Palle, was nominated for an Oscar, yet her name is not recognised by many movie lovers. Her themes are women and children. She made documentaries and dramas, worked for Unesco and was an actress before she became a director.

Palle is about a wee boy, bored with the routine of getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth and going to school, who wakes up one day to find that all the adults are gone. So he drives a fire engine, and goes to the cinema, and puts curry powder in his porridge, then flies a plane, then goes to the moon, then floats down from it by using an umbrella as a parachute! The movie could have been sickly sweet, but Henning-Jensen never loses the slight edge of danger and transgression. We get excited watching little Palle. The kids in Goptapa cheered.

Unfortunately this great film is not yet available on DVD.  Email us if you want to see it released and we'll forward your messages!

Balloons flying high over Paris.
The Red Balloon
The Red Balloon
FRANCE, 1956, ALBERT LAMORISSE

We hadn’t planned to show this Oscar winning classic about a boy and his beautiful, friendly, solicitous balloon, but we had the DVD and decided to.  And we are so glad that we did.  We have a balloon sequence in our film, but the kids’ reaction to this movie – to all the movies – made us almost cry.  At the end, when the red balloon is burst by the bullies, and all the other balloons in Paris unite to rescue the boy (Pascal, the director’s son) from being bullied, and raise him up into the air, the kids of Goptapa reached up into the air too, as if the balloons were real.  Director Albert Lamorisse was killed in a helicopter crash whilst filming the brilliant The Lovers’ Wind, near Tehran, in 1970.  The Red Balloon inspired the beautiful The Flight of the Red Balloon, made by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien and starring Juliette Binoche.

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A princess sits astride a giant goldfish.
The Singing Ringing Tree
The Singing Ringing Tree
EAST GERMANY, 1957, FRANCESCO STEFANI

In 1950s East Germany, an Italian cameraman takes a brothers Grimm story and turns it into one of the most colourful and surreal movies ever made.  That itself sound like a fairy tale, but it’s true. The DEFA studio in communist Germany had huge sound stages and great craftspeople and together they built the castle of the snotty princess, the magical place behind the crevice in a hill where the giant goldfish and the malicious little man live, and the spun sugar waterfall.  We knew we wanted to show a pure, joyous fantasy film for kids in Iraq.  Most people’s favourite is The Wizard of Oz, but we think The Singing Ringing Tree is even more startling for kids. Plus it has doves and a goldfish, like The First Movie, and a tree that sings when people are in love, which reminded us of the trees on the edges of villages in Iraq where lovers go to canoodle. And does anyone else think that this film or story inspired Shrek?!

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