Former assistant director to Abbas Kiarostami and star of Samira Makhmalbaf's Blackboards, Bahman Ghobadi makes his directorial debut with this gritty, documentary-like look at Kurdish orphans struggling to survive. Shot in the village where the filmmaker grew up, the film unsentimentally depicts how children are packed in trucks and driven to the city to perform such menial jobs as wrapping parcels or, more likely, carrying large boxes like pack mules. Though Ayoub is all of 12 years old, he has become the head of the household, which includes his severely disabled older brother -- who is also deathly ill. In order to pay for an operation that might prolong his life, Ayoub joins a group of smugglers who traffic truck tires to Iraq. Negotiating landmines and dodging border guards, they struggle to get their overburdened mules through snow covered mountains by plying them with alcohol. Later, the eldest sister agrees to marry an Iraqi Kurd, under the belief that the groom's family will pay for the operation. This film was screened at the 2000 Cannes and Toronto film festivals.