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Afghan nomads compete in a brutal riding game.
In rural Afghanistan, the venerable Tursen reigns as the finest chapandaz ever to play buzkashi , a brutal competition requiring a man on horseback to transport a headless calf over a goal line while the other players whip him in an attempt to overtake him. Tursen, now a wealthy stable owner, names five chapandaz , including Salih, to compete in the king's royal buzkashi competition in Kabul. Tursen then admires his beautiful purebred stallion, Jahil, and praises the horse's trainer, Mukhi. Meanwhile, Tursen's son Uraz is watching camel fights in town, where he enters into a bet with a nomad, Hayatal, impressing Hayatal with his nonchalance and keen eye for which animal will win. Tursen interrupts his son to announce to the townsmen that he has chosen Uraz to ride Jahil in the royal buzkashi , and will deed the horse to his son if he wins. Believing that his father cares for and trusts the horse more than him, Uraz responds with pride and displeasure. In the bustling city of Kabul, with Mukhi as his syce , or manservant, Uraz enters the tournament, featuring dozens of fierce men. Uraz pulls ahead of the competition, suffering vicious whip blows to grab the calf. Over the next long minutes, he maintains his lead despite ferocious opposition, but cannot reach the goal. At one point, the riders rush headlong into the spectator stands, trampling competitors and audience members. Although Uraz is pulled from his horse, he remounts and is near victory when he falls and is dragged by Jahil, after which the other players close in on him. He awakens in a local hospital and is crushed to learn that his leg is broken and that Salih leapt onto Jahil's back at the last minute to win the tournament. Although he has won Jahil, Uraz is inconsolable and orders Mukhi to help him flee the hospital that evening. On the trail home, he cuts off the cast so the sun, air and pages of the Koran can heal his leg. That night at a roadside inn, Uraz overhears a man discussing the old days of contest, and proclaiming Tursen the greatest of all chapandaz . Remembering playing buzkashi with his father, whose prowess was exhilarating to the young man, Uraz determines to head home right away, despite his pain and lack of sleep. As penance for losing the game and in the hopes of avoiding hearing any further comparisons to his father, he chooses the most difficult route home. After setting out, they rest at the first village they come to where Mukhi, who has heard the road ahead called a dead man's road, informs Uraz that he will not go with him. To convince him to stay, Uraz bequeaths Jahil to the boy, then orders a scribe to set the bequest in writing. Upon hearing the demand, the scribe describes how his master once left him in charge of his fortune, then blinded him after he used some of the gold to pay for prayers for his dying wife. After the scribe concludes that his master committed the greatest sin by putting such a temptation in hands of a poor man, Uraz determines to carry the will himself. Immediately, he and Mukhi's relationship becomes strained and wary under the pressure of the bequest. By the time they reach the next town, Uraz' leg is infected and he collapses with fever. The beautiful Zereh, an untouchable, tends to him and within days he regains consciousness. Upon reviving, Uraz realizes Zereh's status and insults her by ordering her away. Furious, she turns to Mukhi, who treats her kindly. When Uraz and Mukhi leave the town, Zereh begs Uraz to take her along, and he disdainfully "gives" her to Mukhi. Meanwhile, Tursen hears that Jahil has won, bringing great honor to their town, and that Uraz has broken his leg. Realizing that Uraz' stallion has not been exercised, Tursen takes the horse into the buzkashi fields, but finding himself unable to perform as he did years earlier, falls to the ground, despondent. On the trail, Zereh prevails on Mukhi to win Jahil by killing Uraz, reasoning that he will soon die of his wound anyway. Soon after, they reach a town in which Uraz watches the ram fights. When the town's prince names one of the animals the champion, one man challenges the claim, asserting that his ram is superior. Recognizing the man as Hayatal, Uraz is intrigued, and to Mukhi and Zereh's horror, bets Jahil against the champion ram. Hayatal's ram is revealed to be scrawny and one-horned, inspiring the townsmen to bet against it, but the scrappy fighter wins easily. As Hayatal leaves, he announces to Uraz that "what a one-horned ram can do, a one-legged chapandaz can do better." Back on the mountain road, the route turns snowy and treacherous. When the pack mule fails, Uraz refuses to allow Mukhi to help Zereh, fearing for his syce 's safety. During one cruel storm, Uraz collapses, prompting Zereh to approach him with her knife drawn. Realizing that the pair plans to kill him, Uraz begins throwing his cash to the wind, threatening to destroy it all unless they desist, and Zereh gives up. By the next day he is barely conscious when he sees a town over the mountain pass. Jahil carries him to the chief shepherd, who nurses him and keeps him safe from Mukhi and Zereh. When Uraz revives enough to talk, the shepherd informs him that his leg must be amputated if he is to survive. Reluctantly, Uraz agrees, cautioning the man to keep the operation a secret, and stoically endures the primitive and painful procedure. Later, he covers the stump with his stuffed boot and calls in Mukhi and Zereh. In his tent, he overcomes the pair and ties them up, then forces Zereh, to whom the cash represents a lifetime of labor, to burn the money as punishment. Uraz soon reaches home with his two prisoners. After greeting his son happily, Tursen questions Uraz about why Mukhi tried to kill him, then chastises his son for tempting the boy. Uraz responds with disdain, prompting Tursen to inform him that they share the same "darkness of the heart," as men bred to pursue death. When Tursen urges his son to pass judgment on Mukhi, a chastened Uraz exonerates the young man and frees Zereh. Tursen then gives Jahil to Mukhi. Zereh visits Uraz, and when she accidentally sees his stump, he demands her secrecy, then makes love to her. Afterward, she informs him that she has slept with him only for money, and reminds him that burning the cash meant destroying in a moment what she worked all her life for. Soon after, Uraz notifies Tursen that Mukhi plans to sell Jahil, and Tursen agrees to lend him the money to buy the horse. In thanks, Uraz reveals his amputation to his father. Two weeks later there is a feast in honor of Salih. Tursen is disturbed to find Uraz absent, but as the celebratory demonstrations begin, Uraz rides up on Jahil and performs daring equestrian acrobatics, thrilling the crowd with his new accomplishments. As Tursen applauds with great pride, Uraz removes his boot to show one and all his handicap. Tursen follows Uraz to the outskirts of the town, where Uraz bids his father goodbye, explaining that he will join Hayatal in forming a traveling buzkashi team. As they bid a fond farewell, Tursen hopes that Allah one day may grant his son peace.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||GP||Premiere Info:||World premiere in San Francisco: 25 Jun 1971|
|Release Date:||1971||Production Date:||
A John Frankenheimer Film; with the cooperation of Afghan Films
|Color/B&W:||Color (Eastmancolor)||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||John Frankenheimer Productions, Edward Lewis Productions, Inc., Columbia Pictures|
|Duration(mins):||105 or 109-110||Country:||Spain and United States|
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User Ratings & Review
The Horsemen, an unbelievable movie
richard neighbors 2010-08-26
the first time I watched this film was a year or two ago and I still can't get over it. The scenery is just plain unbelievable that something actually...
Disgusting waste of film.
Stupid, violent, full of horse tripping. Pointless, revolting, and a totally insane event. G R O S S!