Some children search for an ancient treasure in the basement of their school. This argument, which could be a Goonies movie, changes a lot in the hands of the Iranian director Majid Majidi (Tehran, 1959), since the protagonists are children who work on the street and whose only hope for the future is to find that treasure … or get an education that helps them get out of poverty.
“There is nothing more important than children because they are the future of every society, of every country,” the director tells us by videoconference. If we invest in children, we will have a better country with more possibilities for the future. But if we don’t, a society without identity awaits us ”.
“Children are the main resources of a country,” he adds. They are much more important than natural resources like oil. And if we don’t take care of these vulnerable children, if we don’t pay the necessary attention to them, we will face a destroyed generation ”.
A great story awarded in Venice and that was among the 15 films shortlisted for the Oscar for the best foreign language film 2021. It opens this Friday, May 14.
The film stars Ali, a 12-year-old boy and his three friends who work in a garage and commit minor crimes to survive and help their families. One day they are commissioned to find a hidden treasure underground that can only be accessed through the basement of the Escuela del Sol, a charitable institution that tries to educate street children, so Ali and his friends decide to enroll in order to search that treasure.
The film is based on reality, says Majid. The idea came to me when I visited a school in the south of Tehran created by an NGO and aimed at those children who are forced to work because of their family situation. And that is your only chance to study. I got to know these children closely and wanted to make their situation public to see if we could get more schools for them ”.
Highlight Majidi’s ability to mix this harsh reality with the adventure of those children who are looking for treasure. “Adventure is also a reality for these children,” he says. It is not that I have added it, but that the very lives of these kids are full of excitement, adventures, ups and downs … they are children who are working and for them every day is an adventure. That part of the adventure is inseparable from their lives ”.
Majid Majidi highlights that child labor is a universal problem: “According to official sources, there are 150 million children working around the world. If we do not solve it in 10 or 20 years, we will face a crisis, a world catastrophe. Because they can become criminals or be attracted to terrorist groups such as Daesh or similar. Those terrorist groups are always looking for new members within those children who have nothing. As an artist I felt the need to help these vulnerable children, to become their voice to try to solve their problems. My priority is the children’s world ”.
“For this reason,” he adds, “that a single child cannot exercise their right to study is already too much. And unfortunately there are many without access to schooling. These children forced to work are deprived of education because there are not many special schools, like the one in the film, that give them that opportunity to study and work. Besides, after working they lose motivation and don’t have the strength to go to school ”.
“Unless – he continues – there are initiatives like the school that we show in the film. A school that is different, because it provides them with three meals a day, helps them with their social and health matters. It is not only a school to study, but it also helps them in many other subjects, because most of them have lost their parents or are in jail.