Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Saddam Hussein is the name most people's minds would conjure up when they hear of Iraq. Within Iraq though, the people are facing more pressing concerns. In the region of Kurdistan, brothers Zana (age 7) and Dana (10) fight for their very survival, drifting around a small town polishing shoes to make a living.
One day, they manage to catch a glimpse of the movie ‘Superman’ through a hole in the window. They decide they want to move to America, where Superman can help them solve their problems and defeat the people they don't like; with Saddam being on top of that list. Unfortunately, they have no passports nor money for a passport.
Despite being a film set in post-war Iraq, ‘Bekas’ is an absolute joy to watch. First time writer-director Karzan Kader taps on his own personal experience of escaping Kurdistan in making this movie about orphan brothers Dana (Sarwar Fazil) and Zana (Zamand Taha).
The two brothers get through each day on the streets, relying on their street smarts and mainly on each other. Despite the subject matter, ‘Bekas’ doesn't take the obvious route of a melodramatic tear jerker. Instead, the brothers' hijinks and little spats are the focus of the movie, which actually makes for a few good laughs and heart-warming moments.
The two young non-actors playing Dana and Zana deliver fantastic performances full of charm. Their banter translates well onto an onscreen bond, whether it's Dana slapping Zana after getting into yet another scrap or Dana having to apologise to Zana after going missing once again chasing a girl.
Zana's performance is particularly endearing, completely devoid of pretense and filled with innocence. War torn area or not, the kids are resilient and likable. They ultimately make you care about their journey to America, armed with nothing but a donkey and map that looks like it's from the boardgame Risk.
The film does have its problems typical of a first time director. As an extended short, the plot appears to have problems ending itself. But these are really small issues that pale in comparison to the good vibes emanating from the rawness of the work and the fun the director seems to be having with the material.
Filmed on location in Kurdistan, the cinematography is often stunning, showcasing the unique landscapes of the region. Armed with laughs and a few tender moments, this movie about true brotherly love is a must watch for fans of international cinema.
‘Bekas’ is a journey of hope and getting out of a vicious cycle and making things happen for oneself. And we hope the two brothers eventually make it out of there.