One of a sandstorm of tales set during the Iran-Iraq war in the ’80s, “Night Bus” has a pleasing spareness to its all-male tale about three Iranians charged with driving through the desert to deliver 38 Iraqi POWs to their base camp. Mehrdad Seddiqian’s powerfully authentic central performance, as an emotional but determined 18-year-old private, grounds the story in realism, while veteran director Kiumars Pourahmad’s antiwar sentiments are easy to share. Fans of war films should add the DVD to their collection, but the subject is too esoteric even for most festivals.
Blindfolded with their hands tied, the tired Iraqi prisoners are nervously escorted through mortars and minefields in a dusty, sun-baked bus driven by crabby Khosro Shakibai. Uninterested in wartime heroics, helmer Pourahmad boldly denounces the senselessness of the conflict, which pitted ordinary men from two closely related nations against each other at the behest of fanatical leaders. Though he stops short of criticizing Iran’s ayatollahs, the viewer is left free to do so. Mehdi Jafari’s clean, sharp-focus black-and-white lensing exalts the minimalist backdrop of bus and desert and communicates a sense of immediacy.