In actuality, the title refers to the cruel treatment of mules, as they are given water mixed with vodka in order to loosen them up to travel in the heavy snow and freezing temperatures in Kurdistan, Iran.The main focus of the story is about a young boy (played by non-actor Ayoub Ahmadi) who assumes the responsibility of the head of the family. His mother died while in labor with his youngest sister, and his father, a smuggler of goods for the poor Kurds, is killed by a landmine. The film follows Ayoub’s struggle to get his older, crippled and dwarfed brother the proper medical attention, even though it will only prolong his life temporarily. “A Time for Drunken Horses” is harsh and unfair, but courtesy of feature length debut writer/director Bahman Ghobadi, he makes this a touching journey of art imitating life. It is not a metaphoric or simplistic piece like Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami’s films, but it still is in the curiosity of human interest. The film for the most part proceeds with a compelling rate, and only near the very end does it become mildly sluggish and salient. With the minor exception of some shaky and jerky hand-held camera work, the snow-filled cinematography by Sa’ed Nikzat is quite beautiful and satisfactory. Ahmadi is definitely a find! However it is very doubtful we will see much more of him with the paucity of broad Iranian releases. Then again, with San Diego’s large Iranian film following, maybe we have better chances that I suspect. Better to be surprised if it happens, than anticipate something for nothing.
Plays exclusively in San Diego at Landmark’s Hillcrest.Final Verdict: B+.