Time For Drunken Horses

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Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Ayoub Ahmadi, Rojin Younessi, Amaneh Ekhtiar-dini, Madi Ekhtiar-dini

Director: Bahman Ghobadi

Under the influence of strong vodka or cognac horses can be persuaded to carry unbearably weighty loads up mountainsides in blizzards. It is this sorry fact that gives the title to the film A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES – an insight into the plight of the Kurdish people.

So what do you know about the Kurds? Well there are 20 million of them, non-Arab and mainly sunni Moslem. At present the Kurdish people are sprawled over an area which falls under the stewardship of Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Syria and Turkey, plus there are many more in Europe. In 1920 at the Treaty of Sevres the Kurds were promised independence by the international community but were denied it three years later at the Treaty of Lausanne. Ever since then they have been striving for international recognition but are divided by different factions. Since 1991 however, over two thirds of the 5 million Iraqi Kurds live independently beyond the control of Suddam Hussein’s regime. Although they have been permitted to set up their own parliament and schools, life is hard.

A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES, written and directed by Iranian Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi, a former first assistant to Iranian Director Abbas Kiarostami, was filmed in his homeland. He chose local children to act the parts of five motherless children scraping a living by smuggling goods to and from the Iraqi/Iranian border. Everyday is a battle. Calamity is never far away in the shape of landmines, ambushes and unsympathetic authorities. Although the children do have a father, he is away – and so the children have been forced to become adults long before their time.

The eldest brother is Madi, 15 years old, seriously ill with a crippling disease and totally dependent on his younger brothers and sisters to administer his medicine and look out for him in the cold, harsh winters. His younger brother, and surrogate father by default, is the self-sacrificing Ayoub, who provides for the family by persuading market traders to use him as a delivery boy – or rather as a mule, carrying spine crushing loads from A to B. Though the children have assumed the responsibilities of adults, their elders still make the big decisions – and the eldest daughter is to be married off to a young man in order to raise the necessary funds to send Madi abroad for medical help. The children’s ambition is to perhaps one day buy a mule, even if it is a drunk one, so that they can do the smuggling route with more ease. …. The tragedy of the film is unfurled.

A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES is bleak, but there are wonderful performances from the children and it may well open many people’s eyes to a less cinema-genic cause than what we’ve sometimes been used to – the freedom of Tibet for example, which has been Hollywood’s most recent fashionable cinematic cause.

4 out of 6 stars