A police officer finds himself haunted by a traumatic childhood memory as he searches for a missing man in the rugged mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, in this striking feature debut by Batin Ghobadi.
Kurdistan is much in the news these days, and over the years the Festival has been proud to showcase the work of two of its most distinctive filmmakers, Bahman Ghobadi and Hiner Saleem. Now, Ghobadi's brother, Batin, has emerged with a highly enigmatic and startling first feature film.
Placing his narrative in the stunning, rugged and wild mountainous landscapes of Iraqi Kurdistan, the younger Ghobadi tells the story of a police officer, Mardan, who is haunted by a disturbing childhood memory.
Mardan is a serious, brooding officer who is called into action to investigate the disappearance of a young man. The man's wife is extremely worried that foul play may be involved, as he was carrying a lot of cash, so Mardan sets out with the woman and her young boy to try to solve the mystery.
But, like Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Mardan is far more than an ordinary police procedural; it features a trip through a man's mind as well as a journey through the haunting terrain. Both movies, too, are suffused with the sense of an obscure past that gradually, over the course of the film, reveals its true face.
Mardan is not only one of the most remarkably shot and composed films of the year, but also one of the most shadowy and sublime. Stalking the Kurdish countryside, trying to solve the case of the missing man, Mardan finds himself revisiting his own personal history.
Ghobadi understands that, while present-day Kurdistan may be the most stable it has been in decades, the past — a violent one, at that — still lingers around the edges of everything.