By: Karez Ahmed –
The tragic story of Iraqi Kurdistan has been depicted in many ways in cinema, literature and art, but few approaches have been as innovative and affecting as the child’s-eye view of Kurdish society given by Bekas, a new film by Swedish-based director Karzan Kader. The story of two young orphan brothers (Bekas means “parentless” in Kurdish) forced to make their own way in a hostile world, the film showcases a spirit of youthful innocence and the importance of hope through adversity.
One day, following the death of their parents, ten-year-old Dana (Sarwar Fazil) and his seven-year-old brother Zana (Zamand Taha) catch a glimpse of the film Superman.Entranced, the boys decide to try and emigrate to America, which they believe to be just a few miles down the road. Without passports or money, and only a donkey named Michael Jackson for company, the pair embark upon their impossible journey. Along the way, the two young brothers struggle to make sense of the world, but draw on their faith in God to overcome the obstacles they encounter in their path.
Despite its fictional, and at times somewhat whimsical plot, Bekas captures the stark choice faced by many Kurds in the early 1990s – to leave their homelands and risk everything in search of a better life abroad, or to stay behind in the misery of a depressed and dangerous Iraq. But with its semi-comedic style, and the touching vision it gives of youthful innocence, Bekas is successful in tackling a potentially heavy topic in a fresh and uplifting way.
Overall, Bekas is a rewarding film with good production values, a moving storyline, and strong acting from its young cast. Although it does not attempt to match the heights of Hollywood productions, it nevertheless represents an important step forward in Kurdish cinematography. Moreover, it encapsulates a nice balance of comedy and tragedy, making you laugh one minute and cry the next.
For anyone interested in understanding the plight of Iraq’s Kurdish community in the 1990s, and the motives that impelled so many to seek a new life abroad, then Bekas is a great place to start. It opens a window onto important societal issues by focussing in on the minutiae of individual lives, and shows the importance of family and companionship as a way to survive in a lonely world.