Mohammad Rasoulof’s Iron Island details the day-to-day dramas aboard an immobile oil tanker in the Persian Gulf that functions as home to a disparate collection of Iranian outcasts. Their shipboard community offering a microcosmic glance at Iran’s social and political strains, the film might have functioned as an unbearably obvious metaphor-writ-large were it not for Rasoulof’s underselling his allegorical concerns in favor of sharp, detailed characters and conflicts. The ragtag group of marginalized squatters is led by Captain Nemat (the wonderfully vibrant Ali Nasirian), a concerned but somewhat dictatorial gentleman who diligently attends to both the ship and its inhabitants. Mediator and father figure, Nemat has his smooth-running operation disrupted when his young charge Ahmad (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh) falls in love with a girl whose parents do not approve, and then subsequently when he learns that local authorities will confiscate the ship, meaning everyone will have to find a new residence. Full of symbolic gestures, Iron Island poetically evokes a spirit of community in a slow-motion shot of young boys jumping overboard with buoyant oil drums – a harmonious image that works as a counterpoint to the film’s eventual bittersweet portrait of the toll wrought by isolation, marginalization, and autocratic rule.
(2006 New Directors/New Films Series)