Directed by Bahman Ghobadi. Iran. 2000.
film tells the story of five children, whose mother has died and father
is away to make a living smuggling. They live in the barren mountainous
area near the Iran-Iraq border in the Kurdish region of Iran. Ayoub, the
oldest boy, has taken on the responsibility of the father. Together with
his three sisters and two brothers they struggle to survive. As if there
is not enough hardship already, their handicapped brother Madi, who is
only a teenager, but has the face of an old worried man, needs an operation
in hospital to prolong his life. Ayoub does everything in his ability to
raise money, but doesn’t succeed. As a last resort, he asks his elder sister
Rojine to marry an unloved rich Iraqi suitor, to get the necessary money
for the operation.
A Time For Drunken Horses is already compared to gems like Bicycle Thieves, Forbidden Games and 400 Blows. Like these all time classics, it shares what all great films have in common: a sense of beauty, a sense of truth and a strong connection, like an umbilical cord, with real life.
The Kurds are considered the largest ethnic group in the world, without an own state. There are about 20 million Kurds who mostly live in an area known as Kurdistan, which encompasses Turkey (10 million), Iran (6m.), Iraq (4m.) and Syria (1m.). Hundreds of thousands of Kurds are living in Diaspora in Europe and the USA. They descend from Indo-European tribes, whose origins date back from 600 B.C.
The intriguing title of the film comes from the fact that the smugglers add vodka to the horses drinking water, to intoxicate them so they don’t feel the fatigue when they carry their heavy loads over the mountains in extremely cold weather.
Bahman Ghobadi, whose parents split up when he was eleven, was forced to start working to provide himself and his family. In 1993 he studied filmmaking in Tehran, but soon abandoned formal training to work as assistant director for amongst others Abbas Kiarostami. Between 1995 and 2000 he made nine short films. His best known one is Life in Fog on which A Time For Drunken Horses is based.
Ghobadi’s next film will
be shot this winter in Iraq’s Kurdistan and will focus on Kurdish music.
The American film-critic Bob Campbell said:
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