The two orphan brothers at the centre of Bekas, set in Iraqi Kurdistan during 1990, speak in only two modes—hysterical or obnoxiously loud. A misfire as both a comedy and a social message film, Bekas’ attempt to tell a story of hope in the despair of the Kurdish people under Saddam Hussein’s rule circa 1990 neither raises sympathy nor carries enough sway to be worth telling.

The film’s basic premise is, at first at least, an oddly amusing one. Zana and Dana, the two brothers, catch a glimpse of Superman at a screening in a rundown movie theatre and become obsessed with the idea of going to America to find him, befriend him and bring him back to solve their problems. They realise they have no money and so take up shoe polishing to raise the funds needed to make the journey, but then the older brother gets caught up in pursuing a girl he has a crush on while the younger brother gets into all kinds of other meaningless mischief which makes their task an enormous undertaking for children so small.

The way Bekas is set up, you’re not quite sure what you should feel watching it. Tonally, the film is all over the place. The antics of these kids is supposed to be funny, amusing and played for laughs but some of it is so asinine and silly, instead of feeling sympathy for the characters, you realise the director is using them, almost exploiting their situation, for cheap humour. Whether it is them looking at maps to determine which route to take and the distance to get there or their fights with each other, the humour is decidedly low brow and, dare I say it, cheaply manipulative. Making things worse is the heavy reliance on cliché’s to such an extent that you can see the plot turns coming miles away. Did I mention there is also a fat kid in there that picks fights with the two brothers? Hardy har har.

Director Karzan Kader and team’s desire to keep the look polished and slick, while being set in a Kurdish village, is also at tangents to the realism they aim for. Though our two little heroes dress up in worn out clothing, ride a donkey and rarely seem clean, the film is directed like an advert, with sweeping, panning camera work and even slow motion shots. Perhaps most telling about its many problems is the fact that Bekas started life two years ago as an acclaimed short made by Kader. It was remade into a full length feature film based on the success of this short and may at least partially explain why, at 90 minutes, there is simply not enough meaningful that happens to merit the films existence and why Kader squeezes every last bit of comedic opportunity from the setup.

If the aim was to raise social awareness then the template should have been Michael Winterbottom’s harrowing, deeply lyrical In this World, a film about a similar issue involving children but one that didn’t use its subject as laughing stocks. Bekas ultimately seems to pander to Western sensibilities and their view of the Arab world (complete with silly oriental Arabic theme music). After all, the story is embedded with a focus on 3 cultural icons that are alien to the Arab world entirely—Superman, Michael Jackson and Coca Cola.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and