Monday, 22 June 2015


This debut film from Batin Ghobadi, younger brother of director Bahman Ghobadi[1], certainly brings to mind the last two films from Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) and Winter Sleep (2014). Ghobadi’s film Mardan (2014) uses a very similar formula, raw scenic beauty, some realistic acting from actors with unrecognisable faces and a slowly unfolding story that’s never in a hurry to reveal its plot, or come to that its final conclusion, which all three films leave to the intelligence of the audience.     
Leila is played by Helan Abdulla and Mardan (above) is played by Hossein Hasen. 

Set in the rugged mountainous landscapes of Iraqi Kurdistan, Mardan (Hossein Hasan) is a police chief who is haunted by a boyhood memory, which has left him an unsmiling brooding individual that seems to be going through the motions of life without having any real involvement. A man with no family and no attachments who spends most of his time in a four-wheel drive Ford and his unwelcoming office. Then one day he is asked to investigate the disappearance of a construction worker by the missing mans wife. During the investigation he is having problems stopping himself becoming attracted to her and her small son. Will he get to the bottom of the construction worker disappearance; will he give in to his feelings for Leila (Helan Abdulla[2] better known as Helly Luv) and the boy? Well I’m not going to give away any spoilers so your just have to go and see the movie when it is finally gets a distributer in the UK.
Helan Abdulla at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. 
A beautifully composed drama, similar to its main character, dark and brooding, never hurried, but even with it’s slow pace its never boring. It was Iraq’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards [3] but because of the very high standard for this year’s entry did not get nominated.  (Poland’s Ida won).

[1] Bahman Ghobadi is a director involved in Iranian New Wave. Bahmans A Time For Drunken Horses (2000) was the first Kurdish film produced in Iran, while his Turtles Can Fly (2004) was the first film shot in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Bahmans film, No One Knows About Persian Cats, was released in 2009. Bahman has said, Kurdish cinema is like a pregnant woman. One must help her to give birth.

[2] 26-year-old Helan Abdulla, who stars as Leila, is better known in some quarters as Helly Luv. Born in Iran of Kurdish decent, her mother was a peshmerga fighter before their family were forced to emigrate during the Iran-Iraq war. After growing up in Finland, Helan moved to the US to pursue a career in music as Helly Luv, eventually working with Beyoncé and Rihanna collaborator The-Dream. The video for her song Risk It All currently has 3.6 million views on YouTube.

[3] Iraq has only submitted five films for Oscar consideration since it began doing so in 2005.

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