Zamani Barayé Masti Asbha (2000) (aka A Time For Drunken Horses)
The pacific snows of wintertime Kurdistan belie the despair and brutality that simmers underneath. This is a world where adults indulge in fist fights over daily wages while children make the most enormous of sacrifices to protect each other. A zone where a mule, a child and a girl are pretty much interchangeable assets. Straddling these awkwardly defined worlds of childhood and adulthood is Madi (Madi Ekhtiar-dini), a teenager whose physical disability renders him no stronger than a three-year old, and his brother and his sisters who intend to take him across the borders, into Iraq, to have him operated. These are motherless children who have just lost their father in a land mine accident, make a living by smuggling goods across the border and, yet, go to school in a subconscious belief that education will save them someday. Although not as unnerving as the director’s nearly otherworldly Turtles Can Fly (2004) or as lighthearted as Marooned in Iraq (2002), Bahman Ghobadi’s A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) still remains a stark portrait of the life and times in a war-torn land where danger lurks at every step, literally. Ghobadi’s is the kind of film that Zavattini, De Sica and Rossellini would give a standing ovation to. Favoring long shots and shooting on-location (which happens to be the director’s homeland), Ghobadi strikingly integrates his protagonists into their surroundings in a manner that highlights what the tiny, tender beings are up against. Despite that, one can’t help but accept all those adages about the artificiality of borders and the invincibility of the human spirit, when, finally, the little boy cuts through the national fence and leads his drunken horse, carrying Madi, towards redemption, perhaps.