Iron Island

2005 [PERSIAN]


Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright85%
IMDb Rating7.210864

persiaoil tanker

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN

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795.32 MB
Persian 2.0
30 fps
1 hr 26 min
P/S ...
1.44 GB
Persian 2.0
30 fps
1 hr 26 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by riid7 / 10

Review from 2005 TIFF

I saw this film at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.

Iron Island is the second feature film from Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who also wrote the screenplay. Iron Island refers to an old, abandoned oil tanker floating in the Persian Gulf, populated with all sorts of people and presided over by Captain Nemat (Ali Nasirian). The ship is a miniature city, with its own school and barter economy, and Nemat is constantly running about, seeing to the needs of the people under his protection, while at the same time overseeing the gradual disassembly of the ship for scrap metal.

The ship contains a whole coterie of characters, including the young man Nemat adopted who is in love with a girl betrothed to another man; the old man who is constantly looking out into the distance for who-knows-what; the young boy who is trying to rescue fish from the hold and return them to the ocean; the teacher who insists the boat is slowly sinking. Under threat from the authorities to abandon the ship, Nemat must decide what to do to keep his little city together.

The film was enjoyable, and it was fascinating to watch the society that Nemat had built up on his own little floating island. The characters were absorbing to watch, especially Nemat, who seemed to be partially motivated out of love for his charges, and partly because he wouldn't know what to do with himself if he wasn't leading the people.

Director Mohammad Rasoulof attended the screening and did a Q&A: - The film is about the isolation and loneliness of a society, but one that still has a beautiful life.

  • The story is purely fictional.

  • Nemat disconnects the people from the outside world from the moment they arrive, resulting in the people willing to follow or do whatever the captain wants. When a society is completely cut off from the outside, whatever is left rules you.

  • The film has not yet screened in Iran; they are currently waiting permission that has been promised to them.

  • Every film, poetic or not, goes back to the filmmaker and what they want to say; and this film is what Rasoulof wants to say.

  • Any artistic work has many different layers, with the plot/story being the one on top. The same thing happens in different places, not just one society. The film is not a metaphor for Iran in particular.

  • The script was originally written as a theatre piece 10 years ago. Rasoulof rewrote it two years ago, and put the ship as a character in it.

  • The cast and crew of about 350 had to commute 10 km a day to the ship.

  • The people in the area where filming took place are very religious and were uncomfortable with the idea of being in a film, so Rasoulof had to go to an area about 60 km away, where many of the people had emigrated from elsewhere, for his cast.

  • Ali Nasirian, who plays Captain Nemat, is a renowned actor in Iran, and did a lot for the film.

  • Each one of the characters in the film is based on someone Rasoulof knows. The little fish boy is based on his own childhood and that of his brother. The man watching the horizon is someone Rasoulof remembers from growing up. The teacher is someone he knows well.

  • The idea for the ship just came to Rasoulof, and he wasn't sure how. He just said there are times one is inspired by such ideas.

  • There is one scene when the older boys are watching satellite TV. The TV was originally supposed to be playing Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but they couldn't get the copyright to do so.

  • On the issue of censorship, Rasoulof said he basically made the movie he wanted to, and let the censors excise what they wanted.

Reviewed by Chris Knipp7 / 10

Rough parable of innocents and a crafty leader

Iron Island (Jezireh ahani 2005),the second film written and directed by Iranian Mohammad Rasoulof, is a loosely constructed parable. Rasoulof conceived his tale originally as a theater piece, then turned it into a film by adopting a derelict oil tanker in the Persian Gulf as the setting and populating it with non-actors, sunni ethnic Arab Bandaris, a marginal group in Iran. The resulting style is a cross between Makhmalbaf and post-war Italian neorealism. One might think of the rusty ship with its squatters as like the shantytown in De Sica and Zavattini's Miracle in Milan, but things here are grimmer and more elemental.

Everything revolves around a kind of benevolent dictator, a "Captain" (well-known actor Ali Nasirian),who cuts deals, settles disputes, and gives out orders. The Captain's full of friendly greetings for everybody but up close is an exploiter and not to be trusted. How all these people wound up here is a mystery but it provides Rasoulof with a ready-made microcosm. The meanings are up to you.

There's crude oil on the ship and a gang of boys the Captain keeps working for him carry it and carved off scrap iron and sell both to buyers on land. Later the boys find a TV and get it working but the Captain grabs it and throws it overboard in anger. There's a teacher who teaches his charges to read using old newspapers and explains that the ship is in the sea and the sea is beautiful and is part of the world. Later when things get complicated because the Captain is going to give up the ship he removes the students and leaves the teacher to make chalk and give lessons to an empty classroom, and donkeys are stabled there instead.

There's a special boy named Ahmad (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh) whom the Captain has adopted as his protégé but rather looks down on. The boy's in love with a girl on board, but she's to marry an older man the captain has arranged and he forbids Ahmad to go near her. But he cannot obey. Things are bartered and in one brief but highly charged scene Ahmad and the betrothed girl he fancies without seeing each other exchange clothing -- his T-shirt; her veil -- back and forth on a rope, as if they're undressing for each other and also trading love tokens. When the wedding takes place, in his frustration Ahmad steals the Captain's motorboat and escapes from the ship, but he's caught and subjected to cruel water torture with the entire community watching on deck: now we know this dictator isn't really so benevolent after all.

The Bandari women wear veils that look like Venetian carnival masks. There's a dark, bright-eyed little boy people call Fish who rescues aquatic creatures who've slipped into the hold and takes them up and frees them. There's an old man in shades who stands outside looking at the sun all day, awaiting a sign. There's a handicapped boy whose daily assignment is to operate the mechanized lift that's used to bring people up and down from the ship. He also gets to carry out the water torture -- because Ahmad, bound hand and foot, is lowered into the sea on the lift -- and he revels in it.

The teacher has been conducting a test that shows the ship is sinking. The captain rejects this assertion at first, but bowing to the inevitable in time gets everybody on board to sign over power of attorney to him, takes them on a "pilgrimage" to the desert, and sells the ship to businessmen for scrap. He promises the people will have a town that will be beautiful, but we don't believe him. The last images are of Fish trying to save fishes along the shore – he has run away, but his project seems more futile than ever, though just as sweet.

Rasoulof's narrative is rather haphazard. At times it seemed to me the relationships might have had more depth if the people were presented in an ordinary community, the boy's longing for the betrothed girl, for instance, and the schoolteacher whose classroom is at the whim of a local mayor. What would have become of the boy freeing fishes and the old man staring at the sun in normal conditions I don't know. The rusty ship may have struck the director as a wonderful idea but it turns out to be a bit of an albatross, a weighty but empty metaphor distracting us from more interesting human detail. But since this captain and his arbitrary world sticks in the mind, perhaps the whole thing wasn't such a bad idea after all. The cinematography makes good use of the authentic faces and the natural, often very low light – contrasting with dazzling moments of sun. There are really three films here: one composed of of lovely images, another of rough parables, a third of social anecdotes.

J.Hoberman wondered in his review how this film was shown at home and what it would mean there. It was shown in the New Directors/New Films series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (March 2006) and then at Cinema Village, also in New York, but the film hasn't been shown in Iran yet, so those questions can't yet be answered. ©Chris Knipp 2006

Reviewed by noralee10 / 10

Vivid Imaging of an Isolated Society

"Iron Island (Jazireh ahani)" vividly works on at least three levels. Opening with a prayer, the premise itself is visually arresting and the story is simple but imaginative.

Settled on an abandoned oil freighter off the coast of an unnamed Middle East peninsula, a rag tag community of squatters is ruled by a wheeling-dealing landlord, a benevolent, Messianic dictator of a captain, like out of a Werner Herzog film, controlling a limited barter economy with the outside world. The huge hulking ship in the bright blue sea is eye-popping, but it even feels like writer/director Mohammad Rasoulof is just pointing his camera at at a documentary of how traditional families adapt to such a physical and economic environment while retaining their social structure with its rigid gender and age stratification.

I equally believed, on the one hand, this could be a post-apocalyptic society as in the "Mad Max" movies or "Waterworld", the new "Battlestar Galactica" or even "Land of the Dead" or, on the other, that it could even have been based on a true story, as much as "Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai)" was based on a real incident in Japan of abandoned children.

But it works equally well visually, emotionally and intellectually as a brilliant allegory, not necessarily of Iran but of any traditional, isolated society with a rotting infrastructure, selling off its resources and émigrés to global capitalism and living off the promises and lies of its paternalistic leaders.

Working under the captain's watchful eye, the frustrated school teacher, a Cassandra-like scientist, uses the Islamic madrassas style of repetitive memorization. But with only old newspapers about a mysterious war and enemy as texts, the students are required to repeat truisms about the glories of living on the sea. Unfortunately, the English subtitles do not translate what is on the black board so some subtleties are doubtless lost.

Just as any society has channeled restless adolescent boys into armies, the "Captain" (a marvelously oily and charismatic Ali Nassirian) organizes the boys on board into teams of coordinated manual labor to salvage resources on the ship that have the breathtaking look of "Nanook of the North" teams ritualistically pulling together for a common goal and their choreography is a wonder. Even so, they still keep trying to get snatches of contact to the outside world with satellite TV and radio.

But we get caught up on in the story of one of these adolescents, his assistant, a lovelorn orphan (played by Hossein Farzi-Zadeh who also movingly played a similar young man in "Beautiful City (Shah-re ziba)"),who stands up to him, recalling "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", or a more cerebral "Star Wars", with an even more dramatically wrenching rebellion. How young love finds an outlet even through elaborate burhkas is a touching tribute to the universality of the human spirit. The audience held their breaths as to who would win the battle of wits and endurance.

Women are especially ground under in this patriarchal society, with physical and labor restrictions and barely puberty arranged marriages around issues of honor. A lack of health care particularly affects the constantly pregnant, child-caring women.

The premise doesn't make 100% practical sense and the ending is so ambiguous that the guy next to me optimistically thought it was happy for all, while I was cynically dismayed. But the images are unforgettable.

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