Buzkashi Boys

It’s been a little while since I wrote about a film.  Last night I went to see a screening of the five short live-action films nominated for Academy Awards this year.

One of them was Buzkashi Boys, directed by Sam French.

After the screening, my friend asked me which film was my favorite, and I couldn’t quite respond.  But over the next few hours, this was the one that kept coming to mind.

The film is set in Afghanistan, and in under half an hour tells the story of two young boys living in harsh conditions, but who still have dreams and aspirations.

It brings together two young boys, Ahmad, who lives on the streets, and Rafi, the son of a poor blacksmith.  The two sneak into a Buzkashi match, a sport in which men on horseback play a sport vaguely resembling polo but involving a headless goat carcass.  For the young boys, the sport embodies a sense of pride and freedom that neither has in their current positions.  Shortly after, Ahmad declares that he will not be on the streets forever, and that he will become a Buzkashi rider.  To fulfill his dream he steals a horse, an act which leads to a tragic event.

At the end of the film Rafi, who had been questioning the idea that he must become a blacksmith like his father, returns home to learn the craft.  At this point there is a variety of possible interpretations.  I like to think that Rafi realizes that despite being severe, his father is simply trying to teach him his trade because he knows his son will need something to live off of.  We notice it when the father lets Rafi go out for two hours with Ahmad – his expression suggests that he remembers clearly having been a child, and wants to give his son the chance to enjoy his childhood.  But there is also a hint of his knowledge that in the position that Rafi and Ahmad are in, boys do not get to be boys for very long.  Childhood is cut short, because they need to earn their living, whether by mastering a trade or, like Ahmad, finding food or money wherever he can.

The strength of this film is not only in its beautiful cinematography and absolutely stunning locations, but also in the concept – it  is a short film directed by an American in Afghanistan, with a crew of incredibly diverse backgrounds, about something as simple as two boys wishing their lives were different.  This is not a film about war, or repression, or even poverty.  It’s a film about being young.  A film whose goal is to remind us that although Afghanistan has and still suffers from numerous problems, there are children there with hopes and dreams.  And even though it does not obviously refer to the war, to me the message is clearly that these kids deserve a chance to live and to dream of a brighter future.

I look forward to future productions involving the Afghan Film Project and Sam French.  In the meantime, I leave you with a link to the Buzkashi Boys website and trailer: http://www.buzkashiboys.com/

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