Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's new film is woven from rich colors like the carpets of the same name and, although it has the charm of ritual running through it as fluidly as the river streams along which the nomads travel, this low budget film just falls short of capturing an audience's fascination.

Gabbeh is also the name of the woman being pursued at a distance by her lover from another tribe. Her father refuses to let her marry this man, each time using a different excuse to delay matters. An attempt at telling what could have been a local legend or even mystical voyage loses its magic at moments when the script requires more than the imagination at work or the finances available to realize them. Either way , it remains an interesting piece of work, but I doubt whether the cinemas will be full.

Makhmalbaf was a politically active revolutionary during the Shah's regime. This film has been added to the list of his blacklisted films in Iran which include A Moment of Innocence and Nights of Zayandeh-roud. The authorities consider his work subversive, but nevertheless he remains popular among audiences in Iran. Perhaps this will be sufficient reason for some to check his work out. The difficulty for the censors in this story seems to have been the fact that not only does the title character resist the authority of her father, but is assisted in her actions by a liberal minded uncle.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett