Teenagers Ameneh (Ameneh Ekhtiar-Dini) and Ayoub (Ayoub Ahmadi), are poverty-stricken Kurdish Iranians who are responsible for their brother Madi (Mehdi Ekhtiar-Dini), a dwarf requiring surgery if he is to survive. Separated from their father, the children's only means of survival is to join the trade smuggling truck tyres into Iraq by mule.

A remarkable, realistic experience.

On the mountainous border between Iran and Iraq, the stateless Kurdish people struggle to survive. This film focuses attention on children, especially on Ayoub and Ameneh, aged about 12 and 10 respectively, who look after their brother, Madi, who is both sickly and severely handicapped. Medicine is expensive, surgery even more so. Smuggling goods back and forth across the border is one source of income, but it's fraught with danger.

Ghobadi's film is utterly real

This amazing film, winner of the FIPRESCI, international critics, prize in Cannes last year, was directed by a Kurd, Bahman Ghobadi, who grew up in the village we see in the film and who played one of the schoolteachers in Samira Makhmalbaf's Blackboards – a film which has a similar theme – the plight of Kurds in the border country – but which is given a totally different treatment. Ghobadi's film is utterly real; the children give natural and unaffected performances; the location photography is outstanding. As these youngsters struggle to survive, Ghobadi forces the audience to consider their plight their stunted lives, their lack of a future.

Like so many Iranian films, this is a remarkable experience – now let's hope some enterprising distributor will release Jafar Panahi's The Circle, which is surely the best, and most important, Iranian film of the last 12 months.

Comments from Margaret Pomeranz: The sort of film you come out of and say – well, you think we have problems. It's a stark, very realistic and strong portrait of a life on the edge – on the edge of survival, on the edge of a country, on the edge of a society. It's harsh, beautifully perfomed, more like a documentary than a drama. And the really amazing presence of the young boy who plays the sick brother is terribly confronting. I even went to the point of wondering whether it was exploitative. It's very impressive, it's just not a film that transported me.