Released into theaters just weeks after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government signaled the opening of yet another chapter in the precarious existence of the Kurdish people, Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi's second feature couldn't have asked for better timing. Set during the brutal aftermath of the first Gulf War, when Saddam unleashed a merciless campaign of chemical attacks and systematic bombing in an effort to annihilate the Iraqi Kurds from northern Iraq, the film opens in Iranian Kurdistan, a region just north of the Iraqi border where countless Kurdish refugees have fled. Elderly Mirza (Shahab Ebrahami), a famous Kurdish singer, learns that his estranged wife, Hanareh, who ran off to Iraq 23 years earlier with Mirza's best friend, is in desperate need of his help. Without a moment to waste, Mirza recruits his two sons, Barat (Faegh Mohammadi), a well-known singer in his own right, and Audeh (Allah-Morad Rashtian), a family man with seven wives and 11 daughters. Mirza hops into the sidecar of Barat's motorbike and heads for the border in search of Hanareh. What begins as a picaresque journey Mirza and his sons are forced to perform at a wedding ceremony interrupted by the bride's disappointed suitor, while Audeh seeks out an eighth wife whom he hopes will bear him a son darkens considerably as they descend deeper into Iraq. The isolated roads are swarming with thieves who've moved north with the refugees, Iraqi soldiers prowl the land in search of unwilling conscripts and Saddam's bombers soar overhead with alarming regularity. The conditions at refugee camps along the way grow ever more dire and, in the film's most powerful scene, Mirza and Barat encounter a newly discovered mass gave where weeping Kurds comb through piles of corpses, searching for their missing loved ones. Unlike his masterful first feature, A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES (2000), which exposed the dangerous lives of young smugglers on the Iraq-Iran border, Ghobadi here deals directly with the Kurdish genocide; with Samira Makhmalbaf's remarkable BLACKBOARDS (2000), to which Ghobadi pays homage in his film's opening scene, it's one of the few feature films released in the U.S. to do so. Ghobadi is a keen observer of the absurdity that accompanies extremity the film is often blackly humorous but he's also a first-rate filmmaker: On a miniscule budget, Ghobadi conveys the terror of war, while the beautifully edited sequence in which Iranian villagers make bricks resembles nothing so much as a choreographed dance number.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: NR
- Review: Released into theaters just weeks after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government signaled the opening of yet another chapter in the precarious existence of the Kurdish people, Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi's second feature couldn't have asked for bett… (more)