Review: Buzkashi Boys

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Buskashi Boys is a coming-of-age story about two best friends living on Kabul, Afghanistan.  Ahmed is homeless and wonders the streets and hustles for money.  Rafi is the son of a long line of blacksmiths.  The boys like to spend time together dreaming of escaping their daily lives and their destiny.  Rafi’s father warns him to avoid spending time with Ahmed.  He sees Rafi taking over the family business.  Both boys enjoy watching Buzkashi, a game like polo where players drag a goat carcass to a circle while other players try to block them.  The film takes a tragic turn which forces Rafi to make a difficult choice.

The film was shot entirely in Afghanistan, one of the first international productions filmed there in the midst of nearby rocket attacks.  I had the opportunity to see it at a screening in Montreal which featured 3 films with a connection to Canada, heading off to the Oscars in 2013.  In the case of Buzkashi Boys, one of the producers is Halifax-born Ariel Nasr.  In true indie fashion, the screening wasn’t at a red carpet event but at a charming pub.  

This film surprised and amazed me.  I kept thinking about it as we battled a snowstorm to make it back to Ottawa after the screening, and has haunted me since.  The kids were incredibly well directed.  The story is relatable.  Many of us want to escape what we sometimes see as our destiny.  At the end of the film, you are left wondering what became of Rafi and if he made the correct choice.

I was really moved by the film and decided to follow its Oscar journey.  It turned out, the producers had cast both boys locally, One of them was a kid they found roaming the streets selling maps and dictionaries to foreigners.  They raised funds to fly both boys to LA for the Oscars. 

Embed from Getty Images

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 24, 2013: Actor Jawanmard Paiz, director Sam French, actor Fawad Mohammadi and producer Ariel Nasr of Buzkashi Boys arrive at the Oscars at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photos: Getty Images)

What a surreal experience that must have been—the first time on a plane, first time for a lot of things, an opportunity to escape their normal lives.  The film didn’t end up winning the Oscar for Best Live Action Short that year.  I wonder what happened to the boys when they returned.  Were they changed by the experience or does it seem like a dream.

The entire short film, Bazkashi Boys is available to watch on Youtube, distributed by Vice.  It is definitely worth checking out.

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Jith Paul

Web Designer, Editor, Film Reviewer

Jith Paul is an independent filmmaker based in Ottawa. While pursuing a career as a software engineer, he decided to take a detour to follow his passion for film and filmmaking, establishing Treepot Media in 2010.

He is a co-founder of the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival, and editor of the film613 blog.

When he is not busy fighting crime, he coordinates the efforts of an international team of software developers and service providers as the Team Lead for Digital Development at CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel.