The Hollywood Reporter / Kirk Honeycutt / September 11, 2006
TORONTO - Like most of Bahman Ghobadi's films, "Half Moon" is
a journey through the frighteningly rugged and stunning landscape
that is Iranian Kurdistan. It is a landscape of haunting, magical
imagery, tragic fates, absurdist comedy and deliriously emotional
characters. "Half Moon" represents a more tragic side to Ghobadi,
but there is a sense of acceptance of fate. Even death is not bad
luck, one character insists.
Mozart's "Requiem" led Ghobadi to this story. The movie was commissioned by the New
Crowned Hope festival taking place in Vienna in November in celebration of the composer's
250th anniversary. All new works in many disciplines including cinema -- several of the movies
are debuting here in Toronto -- use Mozart's music as an inspiration. Ghobadi says the
"Requiem" is "a very close feeling to Kurdistan's landscape" and that his principal character, a
famous, aging Kurdish musician named Mamo (Ismail Ghaffari), embodies Mozart's spirit.
crew members -- his two fine cinematographers are Nigel Block
and Crighton Bone -- Ghobadi has made another touching and
wise film that will grace screens at many festivals and in specialty
concert in Iraqi Kurdistan, Mamo despite his age is a ball of fire.
The old musician hasn't performed there in 35 years. He
commandeers a school bus to drive him around the countryside
to collect his 10 musician sons.
muse so he needs a female singer. While he does have
permission to use a female singer at the concert, women singers
are banned in Iran so he must smuggle the uncertain Hesho
(Hedieh Tahrani) past checkpoints and gruff border guards.
shot of Mamo catches him resting in a newly dug grave as if trying
it out for that long rest ahead of him. Gradually, the road picture
takes on a dreamlike quality as obstacles loom larger and
tragedy snipes at the bus with each passing mile.
are destroyed. An old friend dies hours before Mamo reaches his
village. And the camera with which Mamo's faithful bus driver,
Kako (Allah Morad Rashtiani), has recorded the historic mission
has run out of tape. Then a surprise character literally lands on
the top of the bus, an occurrence the writer-director does not
bother to explain in realistic terms.
So "Half Moon" echoes other Mozart themes of magic and transformation and of the comic
mingling with the tragic. Kurdish music naturally runs throughout, one of the film's many
blessings. It's a music that is strange and yet strangely familiar, a sound that emanates from a
hardscrabble land and its tough, unlucky people.
Ghobadi always uses non-pro actors but you would never know. In fact, professionals wouldn't
do theses roles justice since the recruited performers are partly playing themselves and partly
playing people Ghobadi has known since he was a boy.
In a movie of strong imagery, one stands out: Ghobadi collects Hesho from a mountain retreat
where 1,334 female singers, banned from performing in public, live in exile. The sight of these
singers, drumming and singing in their colorful costumes as they line streets and rooftops of
an ancient village that clings to a hillside, speaks forcefully to the human repression of that part
of the world.
A MIJ Film/New Crowned Hope/Silkroad production
Writer/director/producer: Bahman Ghobadi
Executive producer: Simon Field, Keith Griffiths
Director of photography: Nigel Block, Crighton Bone
Production designers: Mansooreh Vazdanjoo, Bahman Ghobadi
Music: Hossein Alizadeh
Editor: Hayedeh Safiyari.
Mamo: Ishmail Ghaffari
Kako: Alllah Morad Rashtiani
Hesho: Hedieh Tahrani
Border policeman: Hassan Poorshirazi
Niwemang: Golshiften Farahani
Shouan: Sadiq Behzadpoor
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 110 minutes
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Sî û Ba is the best film