A Time For Drunken Horses

on October 27, 2000 by Ed Scheid
"A Time for Drunken Horses" is set in a small remote mountain village in the Kurdish region of Iran near the border of Iraq. The Kurds are an ethnic minority that has been suppressed by various governments. In the harsh poverty of the Kurds, smuggling is a way of life, and horses have to be given alcohol to deaden their senses to the heavy loads they are forced to carry uphill in frigid weather.

Like many Iranian films, "Horses" uses non-professionals. Director/writer Bahman Ghobadi, who is Kurdish, said that his cast had never seen a movie camera and that the village where he filmed is without electricity. Ghobadi's film has a deep sensitivity to the hardships of his people. The straightforward direction realistically conveys the daily struggle of Ayoub (Ayoub Ahmadi), his brothers and sisters. Their widowed father makes regular smuggling runs over the border to Iraq. Every day, Ayoub and the other village boys beg to be in the group taken to the small town to work at menial jobs that include smuggling objects under their clothes. Ayoub's family is told by a doctor that Madi (Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini), Ayoub's beloved handicapped brother, is critically ill and will die without an operation that will only prolong his life for a few months. The family is resolved that Madi must have the surgery; in desperation, Ayoub takes Madi and joins a group of smugglers on a trip to Iraq to sell a mule to pay for the procedure.

Ghobadi has shot haunting and tense scenes of Ayoub and Madi's trek in the freezing weather, in which they brave danger from both snipers and land mines.

The unaffected performances of Ahmadi and the other children movingly show both the family's determination as well as their loving concern for each other. With his naturalistic style, Ghobadi has made a deeply affecting film which shared the Camera d'Or award at Cannes for best first film. Starring Ayoub Ahmadi, Rojin Younessi, Ameneh Ekhtiar-Dini and Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini. Directed, written and produced by Bahman Ghobadi. A Shooting Gallery release. Drama. Kurdish- and Farsi-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 80 min

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