A Community of Arabs Adrift and Apart Flounder - "Iron Island" Review

By Dave Kehr The New York Times

A derelict oil tanker, anchored somewhere in the Persian Gulf, has become the slowly sinking home of a community of squatters in "Iron Island," an allegorical feature directed by the Iranian Mohammad Rasoulof. The squatters are members of an Arab minority in Iran's ethnic Persian society, and they are less oppressed than simply overlooked - marginalized right out of the country and into the sea.

Their self-appointed leader is Captain Nehmat (the veteran Iranian actor Ali Nasirian), a grizzled seadog who works his willing constituents like an old-time ward heeler, dispensing largess, settling disputes and cutting backroom deals.

The community survives by scavenging the saleable bits of its environment, stripping the ship of scrap metal and scouring the long-drained tanks for any drop of oil. The system functions smoothly as long as everyone acquiesces to the will of the captain. But when his protege, Ahmad (Hossein Farzizadeh), develops a crush on a young woman whom the captain has promised to an older man, revolt raises its head and is swiftly followed by brutal repression.

Less consumed by behavioral details than many of his filmmaking compatriots, Mr. Rasoulof makes bold use of symbolic imagery - a satellite television is confiscated and tossed overboard - suggesting that utopias inevitably come at the price of isolation and authoritarianism.

Originally Published March 27, 2006

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