A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES directed, produced and written by Bahman Ghobadi, with Nezhad Ekhtiar-Dini, Amaneh Ekhtiar-Dini, Ayoub Ahmadi. 77 minutes. An MK2 production. A Mongrel Media release. Opens Friday (November 10). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 87. Rating: NNN
at once broadly sentimentaland tough-minded, A Time For Drunken Horses operates in the neo-realist mode of much contemporary Iranian cinema. The film is about five parentless kids trying to keep the family together along the northern end of the Iran-Iraq border. It's the Kurdish version of Party Of Five.
One brother is a mentally challenged, disabled dwarf who needs an operation, so the older brother joins a crew of smugglers, who apparently make money by taking truck tires over the Iraqi border tied to the backs of mules.
Director Bahman Ghobadi, making his first feature after several shorts and an apprenticeship as assistant director with Abbas Kiarostami, has a very striking compositional sense, though he can't do much with the raw performances of his non-professional cast.
To anyone used to the brown hills that are the typical setting of Kiarostami's films, Drunken Horses offers a remarkable and spectacular mountain location that diminishes and challenges the human presences struggling through its passes. As to the title, the smugglers often feed the mules alcohol to fuel their journey, but it's probably the case that a movie called A Time For Drunken Mules wouldn't have won the FIPRESCI Jury Prize at Cannes as best film out of competition and the Camera d'Or as best first film