Sun Children Parent Guide
Whether this film entertains as well as informs is an open question.
Parent Movie Review
Young Ali (Roohallah Zamani) is struggling to survive on the streets of Tehran. The 12 year old boy is living on his own, trying to earn enough money to care for his traumatized mother as soon as he can get her out of the psych ward. His employer, Hashem (Ali Nassirian), the local crime boss, pays Ali and three other boys to steal tires off cars in parking garages.
Ali’s life becomes more dangerous when Hashem informs him that his talents are needed elsewhere. There is a treasure buried under the cemetery and the only access is through the water pipe of a neighboring school for street kids. Ali and his fellow child thieves are instructed to register at the school, find their way to the cellar, and dig a tunnel without being detected.
The boys’ ingenuity is remarkable, but watching DIY electrical work done by tweens, plus dangerous tunneling with no safety protocols, made my blood run cold. Ali’s work in the tunnels also had me worrying about tetanus: I’m pretty sure he hasn’t had his shots. And no one has warned him that you shouldn’t explore a city’s water pipes when it rains…
Sun Children is the sort of film that will outrage adult viewers. It piercingly illuminates the failure of the Iranian state to protect its most vulnerable citizens and condemns those adults who exploit and manipulate desperate children. Throw in police cruelty, substandard mental health care, and underfunded education, and there’s plenty here to get upset about.
Whether the film entertains as well as informing audiences is an open question. The story is compelling and the acting is usually good. The child actors – all amateurs – give authentic, confident performances. Roohallah Zamani, in particular, with his open, freckled face and bright eyes, is incredibly easy to read, but all of the children bring a vulnerability to the screen that makes its way into viewers’ hearts. As with any foreign film, North American audiences might not always understand the social or cultural context for some of the scenes: this makes a few scenes feel a bit confusing, but it doesn’t impair the overall comprehension of the film.
Where the movie falters is in its pacing. It often drags – although that might simply be because I get bored watching tunneling scenes. Scene transitions sometimes seem awkward and a few plot points are more forced than organic. But my biggest beef is with the truncated ending – it feels like the last five minutes of the movie were left on the cutting room floor.
Perhaps the best way to look at Sun Children is as a work of “edutainment”. It’s informative and shines a light on the global plague of child labor, while also telling a story that will tug at your heartstrings. Are your teens going to make some popcorn and root beer floats and sit down in front of this flick? Probably not. But this movie’s messages of love, dedication, hard work, and sacrifice certainly wouldn’t do them any harm.Directed by Majid Majidi. Starring Roohallah Zamani, Shamila Shirzad, Ali Nassirian, Javad Ezati, Tannaz Tabatabaei. Running time: 99 minutes. Theatrical release June 25, 2021. Updated June 25, 2021
Watch the trailer for Sun Children
Rating & Content Info
Why is Sun Children rated Not Rated? Sun Children is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: A security guard tussles with a child he’s apprehending. A child points a weapon at a security guard. A mentally ill woman is seen with her wrists tied to her bed. She has scars on her wrists. An adult forces a child onto a motorcycle and threatens him. Two boys push and shove each other. An adult forcibly evicts a child who struggles against him. Boys are seen with bloody noses and hands after a classroom fight. A child mentions threatening another one with his knife. There’s brief mention of a woman burning her house down and her daughter dying. A boy threatens to punch his friend. A boy pushes a security guard, knocking him over. Schoolteachers incite kids into climbing a locked gate and fence, even though it requires a jump that could cause injury to the students. A man threatens to stab himself and his child. An addict is beaten by a group of kids. A girl’s head is shaved when she’s arrested. A man is heard head-butting another man: the action takes place off screen. The victim is later seen with a bandage-wrapped nose.
Sexual Content: A man scratches between his buttocks.
Profanity: There are approximately a dozen minor profanities and crude anatomical expressions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults are seen smoking cigarettes. A child is implied to be smoking. Children discuss their addicted parents. A drug addicted father shows up at his son’s school and causes a disturbance. A character holds a package of drugs, likely heroin. The drugs are not used.
Page last updated June 25, 2021
Sun Children Parents' Guide
This film is dedicated to the 152 million children who have been forced into child labor around the world. What kind of jobs do they do? Is there anything you can do to ameliorate it?
Human Rights Watch: Child Labor
History.com: Child Labor
Our World in Data: Child Labor
The New York Times: Futures in Peril: The Rise of Child Labor in the Pandemic
End Slavery Now: Child Labor
US Department of Labor: List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor
New Tactics in Human Rights: Rescuing child laborers through factory raids
Institute for Humane Education: 10 Tips for Helping End Child Labor
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Hashem manipulates and exploits the children who work for him. Almost 200 years ago, Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, the story of a young orphan who falls into the orbit of Fagin, a notorious thief.
Interested kids can learn more about the sacrifices made by kids around the world in their difficult journeys to school. Laine Falk’s This Is the Way We Go to School shows kids who get to school by bus, car, and on foot as well as by more exotic means like donkeys, snowmobiles, and boats. Baptiste and Miranda Paul play on the same theme with their book, Adventures to School: Real-Life Journeys of Students Around the World.
What happens when kids arrive at school? Different types of schooling are covered in My School in the Rain Forest. Written by Margriet Ruurs, this book examines school experiences in a variety of countries. Ms. Ruurs has also worked with Aice Feagan to write School Days Around the World. Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes will also spark your kids’ imaginations.
Related home video titles:
There are more movies featuring indomitable young protagonists in the Middle East. In addition to directing Sun Children, Majid Majidi is also responsible for Children of Heaven, a touching story of two children who face a crisis when Ali loses his sister’s only pair of shoes. Their solution to the problem is a story of love and teamwork. Also from Mr. Majidi is The Color of Paradise, the tale of Mohammed, a blind child who has just completed a term at a school for the blind in Tehran who’s excited to head back to his country home for the summer.
Skater Girlis centered around Prerna, a girl in India who falls in love with skateboarding and wants to set her own future – but her parents want her to get married. Real life Pakistani advocate for female and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai is front and center in the documentary, He Named Me Malala. With distinctive black and white animation, Iranian author Marjane Satrapi shares her story of life in Iran and boarding school in Austria in the very uncensored film,Persepolis. A fictional animated tale, The Breadwinnertells the all-too-real tale of Parvana, who decides to cut her hair and pass as a boy so she can leave the house and earn money to keep her family afloat.
Another orphan forced into a life of crime is Oliver Twist, the Dickensian protagonist whose story is also set to music in Oliver!An incurably optimistic orphan, L’il Orphan Annie has had her story told on film in the 1982 version of Annie and its 2014 remake.