"A Time for Drunken Horses" Review

By Peter Rainer New York Magazine

Bahman Ghobadi, the young Iranian whose first feature is "A Time for Drunken Horses," has a marvelous eye for children's faces. He brings out not only their innocence but also their preternatural gravity. At times, you feel as if you could look into one of these faces and see the whole life that will be imprinted upon it.

Ghobadi's film takes place near the Iraq border in the remote and mountainous Kurdish region of Iran, and the harshness of existence there strips away the artifice from people's lives. Ayoub, who struggles to survive with his three sisters and two brothers, is a fiercely resilient young adolescent portrayed without sentimentality; when his ailing, dwarf-like brother Madi requires an operation to survive, if only briefly, Ayoub places himself in great danger to raise the money for the surgery. He accepts the danger and its consequences matter-of-factly. His persistence in saving his siblings makes him a hero, though he would never think of himself in that way. We've become so accustomed to Hollywood portrayals of childhood, sappy with uplift and cant, that Ghobadi's view has a cauterizing effect. The heroism in this movie is fully earned.

Originally Published November 6, 2000

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