An engaging, sometimes exciting juvenile adventure saga set in the vast deserts of former Soviet republic Turkmenistan, German co-production “Karakum” is solid, non-pandering fare for kids (over 8 or so) and adults alike. Theatrical prospects are good in select countries, along with broader tube play.
Flying in from Hamburg to visit his father (Neidhart Riedel), who’s detained on a remote engineering project, 13-year-old Robert (Max Kullman) is shunted along with a pricey turbine in driver Pjotr’s (Pjotr Olev) truck for the long journey into the desert; latter’s young shepherding nephew (Murat Orasov) also tags along. On a dubious “shortcut” along camel paths — Pjotr is secretly drug-running — their vehicle breaks down. Things get worse when Pjotr goes off to find water and doesn’t return. With no common language, the two boys nonetheless jury-rig a land-sail craft, eventually discovering Pjotr (with a graphically portrayed leg wound) at the bottom of a well. Odds against survival in the arid, chalky landscape are well captured; there’s more tension once the trio run into Pjotr’s hostile drug connections. Meanwhile, Dad conducts a frantic air search. Good perfs and pacing maintain suspense in pro package.