Iron Island

Synopsis & Film Details

The title of Iron Island, a whimsical, inventive Iranian film, refers to an old, abandoned ship moored in the Persian Gulf that is crowded to bursting with homeless families. This make-shift hostel is run with an iron fist by Captain Nemat (Ali Nasirian); equally kind-hearted and authoritarian, he lords over the massive tanker, which he has commandeered for himself and his charges. Together, they have built a remarkably efficient, self-contained floating city where life goes on much as it would anywhere else.

Constantly on the go, the imposing captain is at once salesman, matchmaker and overseer. While hawking goods and arranging marriages, he also supervises his residents as they dismantle parts of their “island” to sell as scrap. As the ship slowly sinks and authorities try to force their departure, the disconsolate squatters are too gullible and desperate not to follow their formidable patriarch and carry out his every whim – everyone, that is, except the captain’s rebellious young charge Ahmad (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh), who is consumed by love for a girl (Neda Pakdaman) on the ship who is kept on a tight leash by her father.

Iron Island’s flights of the imagination are grounded firmly in the quotidian. Its stark poetry and unusual imagery spring from little details observed in passing: a character named Baby Fish liberates small fish from the dark hull of the ship into the sea; the residents make their own chalk for school lessons using empty rifle cartridges; donkeys help dredge the oil from the tanker to sell onshore. Strange, bewitching scenes feel remarkably true to life through their emphasis on the capricious and disorderly nature of existence, especially in hostile surroundings.

In his turban and robes, veteran actor Nasirian is a larger-than-life presence as the dictatorial Captain Nemat, taking his place alongside both his namesake Nemo and Ahab in the pantheon of grandiose, flawed mariners. Director Mohammad Rasoulof and his crew keep the film moving at a speedy, energetic pace, perfectly conveying the wry ironies of this daring, unconventional allegory.
– Dimitri Eipides, Toronto International Film Festival

Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof
Iran, 2005
Not rated, 90 min.

Critic Reviews

A sturdy, thought-provoking, and clever fable about Iran and the universal struggle to survive.

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice

Writer-director Mohammad Rasoulof’s feel for his characters’ plight, his eye for telling detail and his warm touches of humor infuse this crisply told tale with an eloquent vigor.

Sheri Linden, Boxoffice Magazine

The graceful film by Mohammad Rasoulof balances the residents’ humdrum daily lives with magical, dreamlike moments that provide hope where hope often has no place.

Michele Kenner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel