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Movie Review

A Time for Drunken Horses

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Reviewed by: Carole McDonnell

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Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
1 hr. 17 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
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Poster art for “A Time for Drunken Horses”

What is the significance of Iraq in the Bible? Answer

Featuring: Nezhad Ekhtiar-Dini, Amaneh Ekhtiar-Dini, Ayoub Ahmadi, Jouvin Younessi
Director: Bahman Ghobadi
Producer: Bahman Ghobadi
Distributor: MK2 Diffusion

Sentimental and often political, American movies are notoriously empty and formulaic. They are especially formulaic when they delve manipulatively into “sentimental” political issues that are meant to pull our heart-strings. “A Time for Drunken Horses” is a movie that many Americans will find too real and harrowing to sit through. Written, produced, and directed by Bahman Ghobadi, it shows us self-sacrifice without one manipulative or false note. And it shows the self-reliance and heroism of poor children without once succumbing to sentimentality.

The story takes place in a small town on the Iran-Iraq border. Like many of the movies from Iran, it deals with the heroism and spirituality of children with hard lives. Ayoub (Ayoub Ahmadi) and his sister, Amaneh (Ameneh Ekhtiar-Dini) Madi: Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini live with their older sister Rojine (Rojin Younessi), their baby sister (whose birth killed their mother) and their developmentally and physically delayed incurable brother, Madi. Madi is in need of an operation. The Iran-Iraq war is in full swing. The children’s father died in a land-mine and it is the dead of winter. There is, of course, an uncle in the film, but he is of no use. How are these children going to fend for themselves? And how will they get enough money to give Madi the operation he needs to extend his life?

it’s a shame that this film—which won a prize in the Cannes Film festival—will not be seen in wider circulation. I don’t know why Americans avoid foreign films. Perhaps we are addicted to violence, especially violence we comprehend such as murder, rape, and violence. Perhaps it is because we are provincial and believe our cinema is the best in the world… perhaps it is intellectual sloth on our parts. Perhaps we just don’t want to identify with other cultures—although that is what film is best at… helping us to identify with others. As usual, Americans—even Christian Americans—want movies that are not too emotionally taxing. it’s a shame that this movie will not be seen. It is a window on a culture (Arabs living in Iran and Iraq) we have been taught to fear. It shows us the effect of our foreign policy and the devastating effects of food and medicine embargos. The characters’ heroism will make us wonder what kind of children we Christians are bringing into the world.

I highly recommend this film for all people, especially for teenagers. The children in this film do not complain, murmur or whine. Neither do they have extravagant wants. They are humble, stalwart, and persevering. They remind me of David, the shepherd-king who knew God as The Great Shepherd. Having experienced many trials, wars and assassination attempts, David manages to live a life of purpose and humility. On the other hand, we Americans remind me of David’s son, Solomon, who was raised in a king’s palace without many trials and yet he whined and complained about the state of the universe. It will challenge its American audience, and it will open the eyes of American children, and touch their hearts permanently. A short warning: the film is emotionally-wrenching at times. I cried all through it. But it turns out well in the end. So hold on and don’t race out of the theater as I saw one woman do. She was crying and saying to herself, “I just can’t take this. it’s too much.” It is too much, but well worth your time.

(In Farsi with English subtitles.)

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