Ali’s 90-year-old grandfather always told his family, “A Turkmen without a horse in front of his house is not a Turkmen at all.” The whole family lives by this motto; every day, twenty-something Ali, his brothers and their father work as horsemen, training and caring for these noble beasts. In this portrait of Ali, he’s convinced that his favorite horse Ilhan will bring him victory at the horse races. After a few wins, however, Ilhan becomes unmanageable, and no one knows why. Atlan follows Ilhan, Ali and the other riders and stable hands over several seasons: at home in the stalls and during training, as well as at important races – where time and again Ilhan refuses to perform. While Ali talks in voice-over, the diary-like narrative is accompanied by beautiful, broad vistas showing the inhospitable Turkmen landscape, impressions of the well-attended races and images of powerful horses. The montage showing the endless efforts to get the recalcitrant Ilhan back to work is particularly impressive. At times, it seems that even the cameraman is in danger. What will it take to lift the curse from this horse, and how long can Ali try to keep his favorite in the race – or even in the stables?
Moein Karimoddini for DEFC - Documentary and Experimental Film Center