A little bit too cute for its own good, this Swedish-Finnish co-production set in Iraqi Kurdistan is undeniably, though not irresistibly, charming.

It's a child's-eye view of the refugee experience and a reminder - if one were needed - that the little people are the ones hardest hit when big people cock things up.

Brothers Dana (Taha) and Zana (Fazil) are shoeshine boys on the streets of an unnamed town in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1990, whose parents' absence (Bekas is Kurdish for "parentless") is never explained.

After watching a few moments of Superman (through a cinema skylight; they can't afford the tickets) they decide they must go to this place called America, where caped crusaders deal to bad guys.


Assuming it's just down the road, they draw a couple of passports in cheap notebooks, because the asking price for forged ones is too high, and set off, at first on foot, then by donkey and later by more perilous means of transport.

Director Kader, expanding his own 2010 short film of the same name, casts non-actors, which lends the project a gritty sort of verisimilitude but doesn't do much for dramatic conviction; the two kids are charming and impish, but Fazil in particular has a single mode of delivery - the high-pitched holler - that gets a bit wearing.

And being somewhat hamstrung by the improbability of the whole enterprise, Kader never quite works out where his story's headed. Certainly he leaves the kids in more peril at the end than they were at the beginning.

It's a rather sanitised version of life for most Kurdish kids, too, I fancy; there's a whiff of Disneyland about the thing that makes it probably better for teenage audiences. It would certainly make a sound basis for a social studies lesson in Middle Eastern geopolitics.

Stars: 3/5
Cast: Zamand Taha, Sarwar Fazil
Director: Karzan Kader
Running time: 92 mins
Rating: M In Kurdish with English subtitles
Verdict: Charming, bit more kidult than adult

- TimeOut