Here’s yet another Iranian film examining the cultural situation on the Iran-Afghanistan border, full of earthy grit and lively characters. Yet this isn’t nearly as compelling or gripping as other efforts (most notably “Kandahar and A Time for Drunken Horses”). Nothing much happens, really, as we watch a 14-year-old Afghan boy (Alizadeh) sneak across the border and adopt the old couple who run a truck stop. The film is basically a series of vignettes featuring rescues after breakdowns or crashes, punctuated by the threats of a heartless immigration officer (Mahdavi) and the construction of a bypass that will destroy this fragile business.
Filmmaker Jalili captures the details nicely, dwelling on the scarce liquids that sustain life in this desolate desert–water, petrol, tea, soup, medicine. And the repetitive mechanical failures echo the inability of the Iranian government to cope with the influx of refugees over the border during the Taliban civil war. Yes, the imagery is astonishing; this is minimalistic filmmaking with virtually no dialog and a truly poetic approach to capturing the grit of this life. But it’s also pretty tedious to watch. Besides the repetitive images and non-existent narrative, many scenes are deeply perplexing, since all the action and violence happen off-screen. And in the face of the stresses and difficulties of life in this corner of Iran, the realities of the war raging just over the border are almost forgotten. But maybe that’s the point.