Batin Ghobadi was born in Baneh, Iran. He began his artistic career as a painter, before writing and directing short films The Painter (2000), Surely Today (2002), Incommunicado (2003), Broken Soldier (2004), Ready for Death (2008), and Ask the Wind (2010) - which won the Crystal Bear at Berlin International Film Festival in 2010. Mardan (2014) was his debut feature. It was selected as the Iraqi entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards 2015, and premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2014.
Bahman Ghobadi was born in Baneh, a city near the Iran-Iraq border in the province of Kurdistan, Iran. The first son in a family of seven siblings, he lived in Baneh until, at the age of 12, civil disputes caused his entire family to immigrate to Sanandaj, the center of Kurdistan Province in Iran. After graduating from high school in Sanandaj, Ghobadi moved to Tehran in 1992. He started his artistic career in the field of Industrial Photography. Though he attended the Iranian Broadcasting College, he never graduated. Rather than following a formal curriculum, he believed the only way he could learn the craft of cinema was by tirelessly making short films. Using 8mm film, his starting point was to shoot a series of short documentaries. Through his instinctive, hands-on approach to filmmaking, Ghobadi developed a unique style, soon gaining widespread local recognition. A breakthrough came with Life in a Fog (1999), one of the most acclaimed shorts ever made in Iran. Following this success, Ghobadi went on to make A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) - the first feature-length Kurdish film in the history of Iran. Winning several international awards, Ghobadi attracted worldwide attention and established himself as a pioneer of Kurdish cinema. This film and all subsequent films made by Ghobadi ? Turtles Can Fly (2004) and Half Moon (2006) to name two ? were widely praised at film festivals the world over, gathering dozens of awards, but remaining largely unseen in his native country. In 2009, Ghobadi completed No One Knows about Persian Cats (2009) - a semi-documentary feature about the underground indie music scene in Tehran, filmed in Iran without an official permit and under very restrictive conditions. He has since had to leave Iran and continue his work abroad. His most recent feature film, Rhino Season (2012), was shot in Istanbul, and Flag Without a Country (2015), a documentary about refugees, was shot in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mij means fog in Kurdish. “When I think of my homeland, Kurdistan, I think of the snow, the cold, and the fog. The fog is everywhere. Life there is also foggy - economically, politically and socially, all is kept hidden under a heavy blanket of fog.” says acclaimed director Bahman Ghobadi, who established Mij Film in 2000.
Mij Film has been devoted ever since to supporting ambitious Kurdish cinema. Iran has always been a region that cradles a multitude of different ethnic groups, such as Turkmen, Kurds and Turks, yet their voices are rarely expressed in Iranian cinema. Mij Film produces two or three full-length feature films each year, alongside some short films with ethnic themes, in the hopes of giving those voices space to be heard and understood.
In September 2015, 3-year-old Kurdish child, Aylan, is playing by the sea in Bodrum, Turkey, when he finds a corpse on the beach. Moving closer to the corpse, he realizes that it is himself.
Aslan is living in the basement of a 5-star hotel with his wife and sick child, waiting for a better opportunity and a more reliable vessel to take them all to Europe. Since he cannot trust human traffickers and their boats, he stays in the hotel and works hard, accepting any task, so that he and his family won’t be turned out.
Every three days, traffickers take another load of refugees out to sea on their old boats, giving them fake life vests to wear. The majority of them drown. A few manage to swim the rest of the way to Europe.
Aslan’s sick child was a victim of chemical attacks in Syria. He’s been dead for two days now, but his wife holds tightly to the body and refuses to believe that he has passed. At midnight, after repeated efforts, Aslan finally manages to separate the baby from his mother. He carries the body of his son to the seashore and buries him. While doing so, he notices the presence of Aylan (his ghost) and takes him to his wife. Her sorrow is alleviated somewhat by seeing Aylan.
Qader is a Turkish human trafficker who is getting rich through the misfortune of the refugees, who pay him for passage to Europe. The night before the next scheduled trip, he runs off with a huge sum of the refugees’ money, leaving them all stranded in the rubble and ruins by the shore. Aslan is the most distraught of all the refugees, but he must do something to give hope to his wife and the others.
Not far from where they wait, a 40-year-old man named Bahman is building a boat, now with Aslan’s help. Bahman has built his own vessel; in fact the metal trailer of a huge truck which he found in a junkyard and has converted into a boat. The building work is now complete, and the boat can carry 200 people.
At midnight, all the different groups of refugees who hide out in the ruins by the shore should be on board. Everyone believes that this great hunk of metal can take them safely to Europe.
Aylan’s spirit presence is a source of hope throughout the story; Aylan who is himself dead.
Only dreams can ease the pain and disappointment of these refugees who have been forced from their homelands.