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Iron Island, May 1

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Monday, May 1, 2006
9:10 p.m. Iron Island
Mohammad Rasoulof (Iran, 2005)

(Jazireh ahani). Life teems aboard an abandoned oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, where the resourceful Captain Nemat (Ali Nasirian) presides over an entire society of marginalized Arab families and workers while the vessel's real owners pressure him to evacuate. But this is no ship of fools. Everybody aboard has a role, from the wheelchair-bound man monitoring the lift to the schoolteacher whose classroom sometimes doubles as a stable. The captain supervises metal scrappers, oil collectors, and women sewing burqas for sale on shore, collecting the money from various ventures to buy provisions and save up so the community can eventually buy land to build on. Their days on the open sea are numbered, not just because the owners are reclaiming the tanker but because the resident inventor has discovered that the ship is gradually sinking. The captain's young assistant, Ahmad, has fallen in love with a girl promised to another man and commits rash acts of rebellion that Nemat thinks threaten his control over the populace, making it necessary to assert his authority while keeping the respect and obedience of his charges. One night Ahmad tries to steal a precious motorboat that links the tanker to shore, and the captain puts on a literally breathtaking display of punitive torture to make an example of him. Thus begins a pilgrimage for a people searching for a new home in a beautiful film rich with Iranian literary and mystical references and a dose of black humor.

—Frako Loden

• Written by Rasoulof. Photographed by Reza Jalai. With Ali Nasirian, Hossein Farzi-Zadeh, Neda Pakdaman. (90 mins)

Preceded by short:

Roads of Kiarostami (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 2005, 34 mins). Master filmmaker and photographer Kiarostami's poetic short film combines elements from his culture that he admires: photography, poetry, classical music, film—and roads.



• (Total running time: 124 mins)