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Movie Review

A Time for Drunken Horses (IFC)

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Written and directed by Bahman Ghobadi, starring Nezhad Ekhtiar-Dini, Amaneh Ekhtiar-Dini, Madi Ekhtiar-Dini, Ayoub Ahmadi and Jouvin Younessi.

Based on real life events and set in Iranian Kurdistan near the border with Iraq, 'A Time For Drunken Horses' is a powerful portrayal of the daily hardships suffered by a group of orphans. While at one level depicting the large scale struggle of the Kurdish people, the narrative is essentially firmly focused on the story of five young siblings.

From the outset, the immediate family situation is set up with impressive economy and emotional restraint. A young boy tends to his older but totally dependent disabled brother who is in urgent need of an operation. Given that mere survival is an achievement in an environment where cross-border smuggling appears to be the only source of an, albeit meagre, income, the youngsters are forced to take even more desperate measures.

All of the children perform their roles with a level of conviction that underscores the documentary-like qualities of the film, although some of the adults do betray their lack of acting experience. This is a movie that manages to be incredibly moving without recourse to simplistic sentimentality or excessive tugging at audience heartstrings.

The frequent use of shots featuring determined, vulnerable faces reacting to extreme situations proves itself to be a highly effective narrative technique. Other striking moments are produced by exploiting stunning landscape footage to its full lyrical potential and by the intermittent inclusion of a musical soundtrack. The film's title, referring to the practice of intoxicating animals as an attempt to insulate them from the cold, succinctly conveys a sense of the relentless harshness of the protagonists' existence. This is also thrown into relief by the representation of both a literal physical handicap and a betrayal by fellow impoverished beings.

However, despite its subject matter, 'A Time For Drunken Horses' is not a bleak film, but rather a beautiful and engaging piece of work.

Siobhan Mannion

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