Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom meets Danny B o y l e ’ s Slumdog Millionaire in Bekas - a film directed by Karzan Kader. Set in the early 1990s, during Saddam Hussain’s tyrannical reign with its anti- Kurdish ways, the movie has heavily dramatised the director’s own escape from Saddam-run Iraq into Sweden. Despite the geopolitical realities of the land, rather than cast a weary eye over the grim situation, the film lends a hopeful voice to the people’s struggles.
The story arc follows two orphan brothers, Dana (Sarwar Fazil) and Zana (Zamand Taha), whose parents were freedom fighters and killed by Saddam’s soldiers. After catching a glimpse of the Superman movie through the sky light of a theatre, they want to travel to America and meet the man. It’s a quixotic journey and the boys meet quite a motley crew of strangers who either side track or help them, one of the helpful ones being a sturdy old donkey whom Zana promptly names Michael Jackson.
Zana even moonwalks, clutching crotch et al, highlighting the movie’s glorification of America, perhaps its only detracting point. The movie is also one giant advertisement for Coca-cola, with the bottled fizzy drink making its appearance every now and then. The movie also portrays young love, much like Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Dana falls for the pretty daughter of a local professor, who is equally charmed by the boy’s impishness. When Dana finds out that Helliya is leaving for America with her family, Dana is even more determined to travel across continents and be reunited with his new girlfriend. Armed with a world map and a donkey that refuses to budge at some crucial junctures, the two brothers have different agendas from this journey - while the older brother seeks love and a new beginning, the younger one wants to meet Superman so he can bring his dead parents to life, a fib Dana tells him to convince Zana to make the trip to America with him.
This creates some tension between the otherwise inseparable duo. The sepia toned, forever magic hour lens colours the film a shade extra magical, and it definitely adds to the story telling. There are certain heartwrenching moments in the film, especially every time the kids come face-to-face with Iraqi soldiers - getting “almost” impaled by a bayonet while they hide in the boot of a car, a way too protracted landmine scene, the uncomfortable ride across the border under a truck - but one sails through all these moments placing great faith in the director that he will let no harm come to these boys.
The Verdict: Bekas is a simple tale well told, and the characters will stay in your mind long after the last credit fades into the black of the silver screen.