By this stage, just before the one-hour mark, whatever sympathy we might have had for the ailing Ali Aqa has long since been eroded by his bad temper, violent outbursts and a basic incompetence in the handling of his feathered friends which verges on cruelty and neglect. What started off as yet another quirky character-study of a rascally oldster has darkened into much more troubling, complex territory. Ali Aqa's second half, with its protagonist seemingly on an inexorable downward spiral into misanthropy, mental illness and physical decay, makes for tough watching.
Heidari — whose two previous outings, the 65-minute My Name Is Negahdar Jamali and I Make Westerns (2012) and the 45-minute Dingomaro (2014), made little international splash — serves notice of considerable talent here. His doc is rough-edged when he wants it to be, as during the centerpiece scuffle involving the grandchild. The filmmaker even includes a moment when he wipes water from the lens of his camera, which could have easily been elided in the editing suite. But the movie is also slick enough to rely on sound-bridges for fluent transitions between scenes and to include delicate poetic montages in the latter stages.