Harsh Realities and Mystical Power - "Half Moon" Review

By Jeannette Catsoulis The New York Times

For his poetic fourth feature, "Half Moon," the Kurdish-Iranian writer and director Bahman Ghobadi returns to the breathtaking desolation of the Kurdish borderlands and the enduring optimism of his people.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Mamo (Ismail Ghaffari), a famed Kurdish musician living in Iran, gathers his many sons for a trip across the border to Iraqi Kurdistan and a long-planned celebratory concert. Despite failing health and his offspring's fluctuating commitment to the dangerous enterprise, Mamo is resolute; neither callous border guards nor his own recurring premonitions of disaster will derail the performance.

Fateful and funny, haunting and magical, "Half Moon" balances delicately between the harsh realities of its location and the mystical power of Mamo's visions. Shooting mainly in Iranian Kurdistan, the cinematographers Nigel Bluck and Crighton Bone find an unearthly beauty amid the gambling frenzy of a cockfight and the silent ranks of exiled female singers lining the rooftops of a mountain village. As the end of the journey draws near, the line between the natural and the supernatural becomes increasingly difficult to discern.

Inspired by Mozart's "Requiem" and commissioned by the New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna, "Half Moon" is an affecting contemplation of resilience in the face of tragedy. When a higher purpose beckons, death itself must take a back seat.

Originally Published December 14, 2007

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