Harsh reality can be easy to deal with, especially when it takes place on another continent. “A Time for Drunken Horses” brings the harsh reality of the Middle East to the American screen, forcing its audience to take heed.
This is a weeping film, not for the cold of heart. A simple story about a simple tragedy, "A Time for Drunken Horses" is a bleak depiction of five orphaned Iranian-Kurdish children laboring for money to pay for food and an operation for their handicapped brother. It is a solid film that provokes compassion through stark absences.
Cutting into his own childhood experiences and the modern political struggles of Kurdish youth in Iran, Bahman Ghobadi makes his feature-length directorial debut with a focused eye on what desolation means. The main character, Ayoub, is the 12-year-old caretaker of his family. He takes on a dangerous job smuggling goods into Iraq on the backs of mules so that he can pay for his brother’s operation (which still will only keep him alive for a few more months). The mules are forced to drink alcohol just to get them to bear the trek over the snowy mountain terrain to Iraq (hence the title). Ayoub gets nothing but trouble for his pains, but doesn’t have the option of giving up.
However sparse the their life, callousness is undetectable in the soft-featured faces of these determined kids, who are forced to grow up too fast. But be forewarned – there is not a single sentimental brick in this house of survival. True, it is a hard film to watch, but it would be an even harder task not to watch it. The director does not make a propaganda plea for pity about this ethnic minority, yet we are left in deepest sympathy for these unfortunate souls.
This is a fictional movie, but considering that most of the actors were common Kurdish villagers, it plays more like a documentary. This is certainly not your average movie-going tripe, so relish the opportunity to witness something authentic.
"A Time for Drunken Horses" plays Sunday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in Campbell Hall.