A Time for Drunken Horses
Borderlands. Ayoub carries his precious cargo...
dir-scr Bahman Ghobadi
with Ayoub Ahmadi, Amaneh Ekhtiar-Dini, Madi Ekhtiar-Dini, Jouvin Younessi, Nezad Ekhtiar-Dini, Kolsolum Ekhtiar-Dini, Karim Ekhtiar-Dini, Rahman Salehi, Osman Karimi
release US 27.Oct.00; UK 17.Aug.01
00/Iran 1h20

3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Iran's fine filmmaking tradition continues with this film about a Kurdish family struggling to survive in the harsh Iran-Iraq borderlands. Well-made and bristling with life, it's also nearly overwhelming in its characters' despair and hopelessness. In a tiny village, five children try to carry on with out their parents--mother died in childbirth with the youngest sister; father was killed by a landmine while smuggling goods by mule across the border. And they make a real go of it, but their main concern is brother Madi, a 15-year-old in a 3-year-old body. They need money for an operation to keep him alive, but can barely make enough to put food on the table. Then the oldest sister decides to give herself in marriage to an Iraqi and take Madi with her to live over the border, where he has a better chance of getting treatment.

The snowy highlands surrounding the tiny village are a mixture of beauty and bleakness, echoed in the lives of these children who find moments of joy in their difficult day-to-day existence. Yes, this is pretty grim stuff, and it only gets worse as the film progresses and they face mind-boggling setbacks on every front. But it remains watchable due to the vibrant filmmaking style, almost documentary like and featuring non-actors basically playing themselves. This raw natural feel--created through Ghobadi's simple, understated writing and direction--brings the film to life and keeps us from wallowing in the characters' misery. And even if it does move very, very slowly, there's real tension as the horses are plied with alcohol so they keep going across the icy highlands, amid landmines and military ambushes. We vividly feel the chill of the wind, the stress of helplessness and the weight of oppression ... but in a matter-of-fact way that simply says, "This is how life is, like it or not."
themes cert PG 13.Aug.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall