Dir: Bahman Ghobadi. Iran-Iraq-Austria-France. 2006. 107mins

More ambitious than his previous films, BahmanGhobadi's Half Moon about a famous musician travelling from Iran to Iraq for aswansong performance, explores the unifying spirit of the dispersed Kurdishnation. Not as narratively concise as his best work, the film tries to pack intoo much particularly in the first half and suffers from longueurs, for which even the introduction of colourful characters and spectacularscenary can't compensate.

Lovers of Iranian cinema willcertainly find much to enjoy here, but unlike Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly and ATime For Drunken Horses, this film is unlikely to widen his fanbase. GivenGhobadi's stature and the San Sebastian win, few festivals will turn it downbut for sales the film is unlikely to attract more mainstream players.

Veteran Kurdish musician Mamo(Ghaffari) will do anything to get from Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan and performthere in front of half a million people to celebrate the fall of SaddamHussein. He is accompanied over the border by Kako (Rashtiani), the film's mostappealing character. A fast-talking maverick con man, he is first introduced quotingKirkegaard while moderating a cock fight. As the fight is about to start, Kakois told Mamo needs him.

Kako talks an unwillingacquaintance into lending them his bus. Before setting out on the long journey,they collect Mamo's sons who will accompany him on stage as well as a femalesinger (Hedye Tehrani from Fireworks Wednesday) without whom Mamo will notperform but whose very presence flaunts the strict Islamic laws which forbidswomen to sing and keeps men and women separate. When they reach the border, thepolicemen turn the bus upside down to look for any women they might besmuggling out.

Realising he hasn't got muchtime left in this world and afraid of not making it to the concert, Mamobattles people, the elements and the fates, with the stubborn insistence of anartist who will not compromise his artistic integrity.

Shot on widescreen, the filmcertainly does justice to the breathtaking locations it moves through. But roadmovies depend on compelling characters and incidents to make the long journeyworthwhile and Ghobadi doesn't always deliver either. Still, Mamo stands out asa great, tragic figure, particularly in the last reel which takes placeentirely on a snow covered mountain pass, and Kako's energetic interventions,thanks to Rashtiani's emotional performance, recall the resourceful heroes whofigure in the folklore of the region.

Using laptops and cellularphones in an environment which still seems stuck in the Middle Ages offers somedelightful moments, and there are moments of real magic, such as when Mamotries to pursuade the female singer to take part in the concert. More of thesewould have been welcome.

Production companies
MIJ Film (Iran)
New Crowned Home (Austria)
Silkroad Productions (Fr)
Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (Iraq)

International sales
The Match Factory (49) 221 292 1020

Executive producers
Simon Field, Keith Griffiths

Bahman Ghobadi

Bahman Ghobadi

Nigel Bluck
Crighton Bone

Hayedeh Safiyari

Production design
Mansooreh Yazdanjoo
Bahman Ghobadi

Hossein Alizadeh

Main cast
Ismail Ghaffari
Allah Morad Rashtiani
Hedye Tehrani
Hassan Poorshirazi
Golshifteh Farahani
Sadiq Behzadpoor