Up & Away

Up & Away


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Dana and Zana are brothers, they have lost all their family to war. That's the meaning of "bekas" in the film's original title. They scrabble hand to mouth in a village in Iraqi Kurdistan. They catch a glimpse of somewhere else in a Superman movie, somewhere obviously better. They formulate a plan to cross the mountains, to go to America.

It's a bumpy ride. As the kids, Zamand Taha and Sarwar Fazil are good, but their charm and cheeky grins aren't enough to save Up & Away. They're winsome, engaging, mischevious, but also belligerent. It seems at times as if all the dialogue is to be delivered in shouts, but threats abound. There's poverty, smuggling, troops from Saddam's regime, physical violence - for all that Kal-El's about, no buildings are leapt with a single bound but someone's thrown off a roof at one point.

Copy picture

The film is set in 1990, and for all the chaos due to be visited upon the region the question your reviewer found himself asking was 'which Superman film was it?'. A 12-year old print of Donner's Superman, or maybe The Quest For Peace? It's a silly query, speaks more to personal foibles than the film's failings, but one still wonders. There's probably something in America being a city just over the mountains, an America where Superman is real, an America whose influence is felt even here as satellite dishes and Coca Cola. An America that's the fervent dream of two wide-eyed ingenues, one born of naivete. An America that's due to come smashing in like the last son of Krypton, omnipotent and alien.

A debut feature for writer/director Karzan Kader, this could be called a road movie but its journey is an episodic one, uneven, even disjointed. The score can be a bit heavy handed at times but there are subtler moments. There's the lesson of the fasces - we are stronger together - and there's broad comedy, even braying, in the form of a long-ear called Michael Jackson. Never 'donkey', that's demeaning.

There are some cultural observations, a little bit of growing up, quite a bit of chaos, some running, a lot of shouting, a bit of drowning, a missing necklace, landmines and loads of urination. There's theft, shoe-shining, a series of vignettes. This isn't quite one of those movies following the interminable quest for an errant balloon - the red thing in the sky isn't a bird or a plane.

The brothers' blend of earnest optimism and childish determination is based on ignorance, and while at times their wide-eyed wonder charms, at others it almost grates. Not that it's the kids' fault, not at all, it's just this is the dread of a conversation at school that kills the Tooth Fairy, the open cupboard door that puts a bullet in Rudolf. There is no Metropolis over the horizon, and Superman IV was rubbish.

It's a bumpy ride, sometimes uncomfortable, more cloying than nauseating, and while it's entertaining in places, it's covering well-travelled ground and there are plenty of stops that don't quite work. For all that it intends to spend time among the dust and the weeds, it's a film that's clearly hoping to soar. Unfortunately it never quite gets off the ground.

Reviewed on: 10 Jul 2013
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Two brothers and their donkey set off on a quest to travel from Kurdistan to America and meet their hero - Superman.

Director: Karzan Kader

Writer: Karzan Kader

Starring: Zamand Taha, Sarwal Fazil, Diya Mariwan, Suliman Karim Mohamad, Rahim Hussen, Abdulrahman Mohamad, Shirwan Muhamad, Bahadin Halabjai, Nawzad Majid, Bakir Mustafa, Baxan Mohamad

Year: 2012

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Sweden, Finland, Iraq


EIFF 2013

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