Compare and Contrast the Iranian film A Time For Drunken Horses and the Afghan film Osama











World Cinema





Written Exercise


Compare and Contrast the Iranian film A Time For Drunken Horses and the Afghan film Osama


Due: Monday, 17th May 2004


The films A Time For Drunken Horses and Osama, both from the Middle East by Iranian trained directors, use the film making style of Neo-Realism. Once called Italian Neo-Realism, it involves the use of amateur actors and real locations to give the film certain sincerity. The audience is able to relate easier to the world inside the film. The truthful quality of A Time For Drunken Horses and Osama enable especially western audiences a more accurate understanding of life in todayís Middle East. Comparisons can be drawn between these two films on many levels.


Directors Bahman Ghobadi and Siddik Barmak successfully engage audiences in the opening scene of each film. In A Time For Drunken Horses, only the voice of a young girl is heard over the blackness of a blank screen. Without an image the audience is allowed only to concentrate on her voice. The simplicity of this idea ensures that the audience is engaged only on an aural level. The opening scene of Osama also uses a filming technique that is different than the rest of the film. It begins with footage of a hand-held camera that gives a distinct documentary-type feel. The purpose of this technique is to enhance tension by the viewer relating to and being more easily drawn in to the action of the scene.


In both films the viewer is denied the antagonist image. The ambush scenes in A Time For Drunken Horses allow the audience only the reference to the ambush in the dialogue and the sound of gunshots. In Osama the insidious presence of the Taliban are not often shown on camera, instead heard only as commanding voices. This renders their position much more frightening to an audience. A series of events lead to the climax of each film. In Osama tension begins almost immediately with the violent Taliban repression of females in the street demonstration In A Time For Drunken Horses the first tension is when the children are caught smuggling books. They are taken out of the truck and lined up in a fashion not dissimilar to an execution. In each the screen time is over several weeks and the fathers have both been killed.


Parallels can be drawn between the girl of Osama and the characters of Ayoub and Madi. Ayoub is the hero and Osama the heroine and are the exact same age. Due to family circumstances they are forced to work and earn money to ensure their familyís survival in a time of oppression and hardship. Osama and Madi both live in a world very unaccommodating towards their situation. Madi is chronically disabled and is doomed to not survive for much longer. Osama is practically doomed being a female coming from an all-female family living under the Talibanís regime. All children live in a society of poverty and repression ruled under the political tyranny of the Middle Eastís during the last decade.


The small amount of comic relief in both films masks a tragic intention behind the scene. In A Time For Drunken Horses Madi receives a poster of a body builder. The juxtaposed images of the shot highlight the tragically contrasting body shapes. It gives Madi great pleasure in seeing something he so admires, and the audience realizes that there is no hope for him, as he will never become as physically able as others. In Osama, the young girl is married off to an old mullah. He holds up a chain full of locks and asks her to choose the one she wants. When she refuses he finds a monstrously large padlock just for her. The question seems so absurd and the padlock so large it is almost comical. But the scene suggests that the girl will be locked up never to escape, and there is no hope for her.


The underlying theme of both films is innocence. In both films children are the main characters. This may be because an audience will relate better to the purity and innocence of a child living in oppressed