Short Spotlight: 'Asad,' 'Buzkashi Boys' Plead to Bring Teen Stars to the Oscars

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Short Spotlight: 'Asad,' 'Buzkashi Boys' Plead to Bring Teen Stars to the Oscars
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Short Spotlight: 'Asad,' 'Buzkashi Boys' Plead to Bring Teen Stars to the Oscars

The teenage stars of two Oscar-nominated movies would love to come to Hollywood for the Academy Awards, but financial and diplomatic hurdles stand in the way of the young actors from the nominated live-action shorts "Asad" and "Buzkashi Boys."

To overcome those obstacles, the filmmakers behind both shorts have launched campaigns to raise money and to pressure governments into allowing the boys to go from the streets of Kabul and Cape Town to the red carpet at Hollywood & Highland.

Both films were shot overseas using non-professional talent. In the case of "Asad," director Bryan Buckley (left, with his two principal cast members) recruited a cast of Somali refugees, many of whom he found in a Kenyan refugee camp after they were forced out of their war-torn country.

Also read: Oscar's Live-Action Shorts: Death, Aging and Piracy in a Tight Race

Buckley's film deals with a young boy trying to choose between the honest life of a fisherman and the lure of piracy. He shot it in South Africa, where his formerly illiterate lead actors,14-year-old Harun Mohammed and his 12-year-old brother Ali Mohammed, now live. Their schooling is funded by Buckley.

As Somali refugees, the boys are unable to travel outside South Africa without special visas. Buckley and producer Mino Jarjorua are petitioning the governments of South Africa and the United States to grant those visas.

"Their stories and their outlook on life haven't been fully told and haven't gained the exposure they deserve," said Buckley, who is best known for his numerous Super Bowl commercials. "The media has this fascination with Somali pirates and to a lesser extent with the Al-Shabaab [Islamic extremists] group … and as a result, the spirit of the everyday people is overlooked."

"Buzkashi Boys," meanwhile, is writer-director Sam French's attempt to shed light on everyday life in Afghanistan, and part of an initiative, the nonprofit Afghan Film Project, to boost the Afghan film industry. The story of two young boys who are attracted to the brutal, polo-style sport of buzkashi, it stars two 14-year-olds, Fawad Mohammadi and Jawanmardi Paiz (with French, right).

The filmmakers found Mohammadi working as a street vendor in Kabul, a town he has never left.

According to the filmmakers, Mohammadi has a ticket to the Oscars, but he doesn't have the money to make the trip -- so the Afghan Film Project has begun a campaign and set up a website (https://rally.org/buzkashiboys) to raise money for the trip.

The odds look good for Mohammadi, and perhaps for Paiz as well. As of Wednesday morning, about $6,500 had been raised from 85 donors. The goal is to raise $10,000, with additional money going into a college fund for Mohammadi.

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