A Time for Drunken Horses
The winner of the Camera d'Or at this year's Cannes International Film Festival, A Time for Drunken Horses is blessed with a poetic title, gorgeously bleak cinematography by Sa'ed Nikzat, heartfelt performances, and an exotic milieu (a Kurdish community in a rugged, mountainous region of Iran). Too bad its writer/director, Bahman Ghobadi, can't keep his story from feeling arbitrary and confusing, or stop repeating his most arresting visual image--that of a line of Kurds and their beasts of burden trudging through the snow. (The film's title comes from the practice of feeding horses alcohol so they won't mind the difficult trek through the mountains.) In Drunken Horses, young Ayoub (Ayoub Ahmadi), his sisters Ameneh (Ameneh Ekhtiar-Dini) and Rojin (Rojin Younessi), and their ailing, crippled brother Madi (Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini) struggle to survive though odd jobs and smuggling goods across the nearby Iraqi border; their mother is dead, and their smuggler dad is away. When a doctor tells the siblings that Madi must have an operation, the family struggles to raise the money and get him across the border to a hospital in Iraq. Though the wide-eyed child actors are affecting--at times heartbreaking--their efforts are hampered by a story that feels at turns rushed and languid, and which has trouble connecting all the narrative dots. In Farsi and Kurdish with English subtitles.