The boys reside at home with their mother, elderly father and disturbed brother. Hamid brings in money from his various illicit activities and is always in trouble with the police, whereas Yachine is a good boy, selling oranges in the market though he would like to step up to drug dealing given half the chance. Hamid is inevitably sent to jail and when he returns years later it is as a convert to Islam.
Significantly, the suicide bombers aren't demonised in the film. Their guiding Imam is charismatic and gently spoken, and the conversion of the cadre is convincing. After all, these are boys with very little to look forward to - their futures, kneecapped by poverty and hopelessness, are given direction and meaning by the act of Jihad.
We may have seen a similar journey in the same Middle Eastern context in Hany Abu Assad's Paradise Now (2005), but Ayouch's Horses of God has a much broader scope. This is a fine cinematic contribution to understanding a region that now, more than ever in the wake of the Arab Spring, could do with some compassionate depiction.
The 56th BFI London Film Festival runs from 10-21 October. For more of our LFF coverage, simply follow this link.