A Time for Drunken Horses | Chicago Reader

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Writer-director Bahman Ghobadi returned to his native village near the Iran-Iraq border to make his feature debut, the first Iranian film in Kurdish. Reminiscent of Italian neorealism, A Time for Drunken Horses uses nonactors to tell the heartrending story of a family of poor orphans desperate to find money to pay for an operation for their handicapped brother, Madi. Madi is a teenager who's no bigger than a two-year-old and suffers from terrible pain that expensive medicine only partly relieves. His time is clearly running out, but his five young siblings are devoted to him and try everything in their limited power to prolong his life. The eldest sister agrees to marry a man from Iraq with the understanding that her in-laws will pay for Madi's operation and is devastated when they refuse. Then 12-year-old Ayoub joins a group of smugglers driving horses loaded with contraband over the border—the film's title comes from the smugglers' practice of lacing the horses' water with alcohol so they'll keep working. More grim and less sentimental than other Iranian films featuring plucky children, this strikingly photographed work stresses the harshness of daily life in Iranian Kurdistan. It shared the Camera d'Or for best first feature at Cannes with Djomeh, another Iranian film. 80 min.

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