Sometime after the fall of Saddam Hussein, famous Kurdish musician Mamo sets out with his ten sons to give a concert in Iraqi Kurdistan. What follows is a ramshackle road trip by school bus across a beautiful but desolate landscape. Along the way Mamo is harassed by border guards, constantly questioned, occasionally deserted by his children - and haunted by visions of his own death.
Categorising Half Moon is like trying to grasp water. Iranian director Bahman Gobadi is a master of shifting tones, and his film combines absurdist comedy, mysticism and tragedy to beguiling effect. The road followed by Mamo and his band veers wildly through landscapes political, poetic and spiritual, and you never know what lies around the next corner. At one moment they are fleeing from trigger happy American soldiers, the next they have discovered a mysterious city where exiled female singers harmonise mournfully to the mountains. At its best the film transports you to a world of austere wonders, a place that feels genuinely alien.
Surprisingly gripping despite its whimsical subject matter and often very funny, Half Moon is let down only by a confused final act powered by a deus ex machina figure that drops literally out of the sky - and for a spectre of redemption, she seems to know an awful lot about musical venue hire. Performances throughout are first class though, with Ismail Gaffhari's dignified Mamo a stand-out.
Half Moon (Niwemang) is out in the UK on 4th January 2008.