Buzkashi Boys is a unique narrative short film shot entirely on location in Afghanistan, offering a rare glimpse at another side of this war-torn country.
Set against the backdrop of buzkashi, a brutal game of horse polo played with a dead goat instead of a ball, the film follows two best friends, a street urchin and a blacksmith’s son, who struggle to reconcile dreams with duty as they make their way to manhood.
Buzkashi Boys was produced through the Afghan Film Project, a non-profit foundation formed to tell uniquely Afghan stories while building the capacity of Afghanistan's fledgling film industry.
Produced to the highest International standards, the film introduced more than a dozen young Afghan filmmakers to new skills and techniques by pairing them with international film professionals in mentor-trainee relationships. These young trainees have already gone on to use their new skills to succeed in the challenging Afghan media landscape, writing, directing, and producing their own films, independently and for television. Buzkashi Boys is a testament to their success, and the power of film as an international language. Our initial funding has allowed us to shoot and edit the film, but we need your help to complete the final stages of post-production.
I moved to Kabul in 2008 to pursue a gorgeous woman who had just gotten a job at the British Embassy. I arrived with barely any knowledge of the country, without a job, and expecting to be hunkered down in a bunker for the duration. But I found instead a country complex in texture, culture, and full of stories. At the time, I had no idea I would still be working there four years later, long after my girlfriend had returned to the West.
Inspired by the people and places I had come to love, I collaborated with Martin Roe to write Buzkashi Boys in 2009. We hoped to describe a richer and more intimate view of Afghanistan than that seen in the Western media. We wanted to tell a story about two kids who have larger than life dreams, and show that even here, in a country wracked by war, there are things that connect us all.
Partnering with Afghan-Canadian producer Ariel Nasr, we soon realized just what a massive undertaking we had embarked upon. As you may imagine, filming in Afghanistan presented numerous challenges, from finding actors, getting equipment into the country, to dealing with the cultural and logistical issues of a location based shoot in a warzone. But after over a year in pre-production, we convinced nine film professionals to fly to Afghanistan and commit to an extraordinary challenge -- to make an ambitious film in a war-torn country with little infrastructure, while providing on the job training to emerging local film makers.
They took up the challenge, and I can say proudly that our initial vision has become a reality. We have a fantastic film in the can, and our Afghan trainees are now some of the most capable young media producers in the country.
Buzkashi Boys is an experiment in cross-border filmmaking, born out of a desire for collaboration between Afghan and international filmmakers. Our core team came to the project with many years experience working in Afghanistan, and a growing desire to give back to the Afghan film community.
Buzkashi Boys presented a new challenge at every turn, from rocket attacks near our shooting location to cultural differences and near disaster on the Buzkashi field. What kept us going was a shared love for film and the growing bond between Afghan and international crew.
After all, this was something new—an international crew making a world-class drama on location in Afghanistan, while training Afghan filmmakers. As we had discovered, Afghanistan is full of young filmmakers who continue to work despite conflict, lack of infrastructure and economic pressure. We hope that—with your help—this film will inspire the Afghan and international communities to pay attention to Afghanistan’s film industry, which is so full of talent and promise.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
It has been a long journey to make this film, with its share of unique challenges. Two years since the idea first formed, we are close to the finish line. But unfortunately, our funding has fallen just short of covering the costs of finishing the film. And this is where you come in.
Your donation will go towards paying for color grading, visual effects, mastering the film, and publicity.
This has truly been a labor of love. We have all dedicated our lives to making this film happen, and we would be incredibly grateful if you give us the support necessary to share it with the world. Plus, you can get some nifty stuff!
Buzkashi Boys has been a true collaborative effort by many people from around the world. And the mission of the Afghan Film Project continues today – to train Afghan filmmakers and help their voices be heard. Please, add your voice to the discussion.
Sam French and Ariel Nasr
WRITER/DIRECTOR – Sam French
A founding director of Development Pictures in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sam French is an award-winning filmmaker with over 14 years experience in film and television.
He recently directed Buzkashi Boys, one of the first narrative fiction films to be shot entirely on location in Kabul with a mixed Western and Afghan crew. This film is the first project of the Afghan Film Project, a non-profit NGO which Sam co-founded in 2010.
Before moving to Afghanistan he wrote, produced, and directed short films, music videos, commercials, and documentaries. His 2006 short film Over the Line won multiple awards, including Best Director and Best Actor at the Beverly Hills Film Festival, and was rated as one of the best films of the year at USC’s 2006 First Look Festival. Sam graduated from USC film school with a Masters of Fine Arts in Film Production.
He has spent the last four years in Kabul, producing and directing documentaries for diverse clients including the UN, DFID, the EU, CARE International, Channel 4, CNN, PBS, and Current TV.
PRODUCER – Ariel Nasr
Ariel Nasr is an award winning Afghan-Canadian filmmaker based in Afghanistan. Fascinated by the pursuit of untold stories, he wrote and directed "Good Morning Kandahar" and "The Boxing Girls of Kabul" for the National Film Board of Canada, as well as a an interactive piece about Kabul's story tellers (work in progress).
He freelances as a director and producer for television, commercial and independent clients. Ariel also works with video installation, and radio, and recently produced the short, narrative film "Buzkashi Boys", shot on location in Kabul. He co-founded two partner NGOs to help train and promote Afghan filmmakers: AFEO (Afghanistan) and the Afghan Film Project (USA).
WRITER/CO-PRODUCER – Martin Roe
Martin is a graduate of Oxford University and the University of Southern California Film School.
In his career in the entertainment industry, he has worked in almost every aspect of film production, including directing music videos for artists such as Mint Royale and Mark Ronson, producing and directing commercials for companies and artists such as Dell, Deloitte, and Franz Ferdinand. and editing three feature films, including the upcoming Disconnected for MTV Films.
He is also Partner and Co-Founder at Dirty Robber, a Los Angeles based production company.
He is thrilled to have been part of Buzkashi Boys.
CINEMATOGRAPHER – Duraid Munajim
Born in Kuwait in 1972 to an Iraqi father and Iranian mother, Duraid was 17 years of age when his family immigrated to Canada. He began studying anthropology at Vanier College, Montreal but had later received his BFA in film production in 1997 from Concordia University, in Montreal in which he made his thesis film, Tempus Fugit.
His work has been screened in festivals around the world, including IDFA in Amsterdam, Dokfest in Munich, as well as festivals in Switzerland, Lebanon, France, and across the U.S. and Canada.
Duraid's most recent film, "what I've lost", is a short documentary that has screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, Montreal Nouveau film fest, Gulf Film Festival and others. exile & empire: 20 shorts on Iraq, is an experimental 'essay-driven' documentary on Iraq, past and up to the U.S. invasion of 2003, told through a series of short films.
In 2007 Duraid worked as one of the principal camera operators on The Hurt Locker, which ended up winning multiple awards internationally, including Best Picture at the 2010 Oscar awards.
EDITOR – Nels Bangerter
Nels Bangerter is an Emmy-nominated film editor based in San Francisco, California. His latest project, the feature-length documentary Let the Fire Burn, was just awarded financing from the Sundance Documentary Fund, and he edited the award-winning documentary Out In the Silence, which has screened nationwide on PBS, received an regional Emmy for Best Documentary, and was also supported by Sundance.
In 2008 he edited War Child, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and won Tribeca's Audience Award for feature films and the IDA's ABCNEWS Award for best use of archival footage. In 2011, Nels received a nomination for an Emmy for Outstanding Editing on Dan Rather Reports.
Outside the editing room, Nels has worked in a gold mine, lived in a redwood tree, and earned bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and English.
The cast and crew in Darul Aman Palace.
Sam giving some direction to Fawad.
Darul Aman Palace, former home of the king.
The kids warming up while we practice the dolly move.
Jawanmard on top of Darul Aman.
The kids bonding on set.
Sam sporting a Pakoul.
Fawad learning how to hammer.
A Chapandaz grips his Buzkashi whip with his teeth.
- (26 days)