Half Moon* Review

Half Moon film still


Something for everyone – serious issues for the world cinema aficionados and comedy for everyone else.

Those of you after swashbuckling adventure and razor sharp dialogue may be disappointed by this one, but that would be missing the point. Kurdish-Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi has followed his acclaimed 2004 Turtles Can Fly with a tragi-comic opus, big on symbolism and introspection.

The plot follows Kurdish folk musician Mamo (Ismail Ghaffari), who is given the chance to perform in Iraqi Kurdistan following the downfall of Saddam. He gathers his sons and bus driver Kako (Allah-Morad Rashtian) and sets off through the barren countryside towards the border.

It soon becomes clear that the trip will be marred by difficulty – foreseen by one of Mamo’s sons after visiting a wise man. Mamo in turn visits the elder, as the slow-mo imagery and haunting soundtrack hint that the boundaries between fact and fiction, fantasy and realism are becoming blurred.

Mamo is convinced that the group needs a female vocalist to complete the ensemble, so travels to a village of 1,334 exiled female musicians, whereupon he discovers singer Hesho (Hedieh Tehrani). The village is symbolic – a metaphor for Iran’s oppressed women, forbidden from performing in public with men.

When Hesho agrees to accompany the group, she has to be hidden under the floorboards of the bus. Meanwhile, Mamo becomes tortured by repeated visions of his own death as the journey continues. It’s then that the angelic figure of Niwemang, or ‘Half Moon’ (Golshifteh Farahani), joins the group. Where she comes from we don’t know. Is she a dream? And what does she stand for?

Half Moon is a slice of Kurdish life – a snapshot of a people who have been oppressed for centuries. Though some may find the condemnation of Kurdistan’s Farsi cousins hard to take, the film reflects the character of its people: serious, resilient and even comic.

This is a triumphant return for Ghobadi, a filmmaker passionate about his people and his land. Don’t try to rationalise it, but do ask questions of the film and yourself. Isn’t that what cinema is all about?

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