Buzkashi Boys Oscar nod boosts hopes for Afghan film

The child actors of Buzkashi Boys worked with Halifax-born producer Ariel Nasr on the Oscar-nominated short film that follows a group of boys from different backgrounds drawn to Afghanistan's national sport, buzkashi.

Halifax-born producer Ariel Nasr worked for a year ahead of shoot in Kabul

Jawanmard Paiz, centre, and Fawad Mohammadi, right, star as boys of different backgrounds who become friends in Buzkashi Boys. Director Sam French, left, is show at work on the set in Kabul. (David Gill/Afghan Film Project/Associated Press)

Jawanmard Paiz, one of the young stars of Oscar-nominated short Buzkashi Boys, says he hopes the film will help change attitudes about his home country of Afghanistan.

Paiz complains that people outside the country think it’s all conflict and violence. He'd prefer Afghanistan to be known for its  culture and especially its films.

Paiz worked with Halifax-born producer Ariel Nasr on Buzkashi Boys, which follows a group of boys from different backgrounds draw to Afghanistan's national sport, buzkashi.

The sport is played from horseback, like polo, with the goal of gaining control of the carcass of a headless goat and moving it past the goal line.

"With Buzkashi Boys you have a film that is not about the war. It's about people," Nasr told CBC News.

The producer, whose mom is American and dad is Afghan,  worked on the short film with the Afghan Film Project, an organization devoted to rebuilding Afghanistan's film industry.

"It's Afghanistan. No one had done it before. We didn't know if we could do it," he said, explaining that it took a year to set up the two-week shoot. There were hurdles to getting permits, hiring local police for security  and scouting locations in a war zone.

Director Sam French plucked Fawad Mohammadi, the boy who plays a blacksmith's son who wants to become a buzkashi star, from the streets of Kabul.

Paiz comes from a middle-class family with acting roots, and joined Mohammadi and Nasr Thursday at a luncheon in Los Angeles celebrating Canadian Oscar nominees.

Nasr said the Afghan Film Project is intended to train cast and crew members in the country, paving the way for a local film industry.

An Oscar win Sunday night would really boost chances for film in Afghanistan, he said.

"So whatever it would mean to us, it would mean so much more to those filmmakers in Afghanistan, audiences in Afghanistan, who can now say here's a film, shot in Afghanistan that's world class, certifiably world class," he said.