Akin to Asad: Too bad the film isn't as fascinating as the behind-the-scenes story
Director Sam French moved to Afghanistan five years ago to help revive the country's film industry—thriving at one time but now devastated by years of civil war and destruction of film and theaters by the Taliban. Using the making of Buzkashi Boys as a teaching device in his Afghan Film Project, Oscar hopes were not in the same universe as French's modest goals for the film.
A teen-aged odd couple were chosen for the lead roles: Fawad Mohammadi, a Kabul street peddler, and Jawanmard Paiz, a film actor since age five and son of a well-known Afghan actor. The two were complementary as Paiz coached Mohammadi in the ways of acting and interviews, while Mohammadi shared his street smarts. Perhaps this would have made for the better screenplay.
In the movie, the boys (Mohammadi as a blacksmith's son resisting that generations-long career path and Paiz, an orphaned street urchin) are friends fascinated with Buzkashi—the Afghan national sport, which is similar to polo but far rougher and played with a dead goat rather than mallets and a ball. Obsessed with their dreams of becoming Buzkashi riders, the boys risk all to follow that passion. (See trailer below.)
The film is well made—good on the acting, cinematography, and editing fronts. But the story line lacks traction. In homage to another Ocar nominee, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
Coda to the behind-the-scenes story: French has raised over $10,000 to bring Mohammadi and Paiz to Los Angeles for the Oscars, plus additional funds to support Mohammadi's future education. Now that is a story.