REVIEW: Buzkashi Boys [2012]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


Rating: NR | Runtime: 28 minutes | Release Date: 2012 (Afghanistan)
Director(s): Sam French
Writer(s): Sam French & Martin Desmond Roe

“Cheer for these champions”

From crumbling bombed-out architectural shells, the black soot-covered faces of the public, and a national sport as rough and grotesque as Buzkashi’s horse polo with a dead goat, life in Afghanistan is quite easily one of the hardest, most brutal lives one can imagine. We sit here in America and let the media paint the entire country as our enemy—poverty stricken heathens who should be overjoyed by our intrusion upon them to instill some semblance of Westernization—and as a result never get to see how intrinsically alike we are. Through a fatherless street urchin named Ahmad (Jawanmard Paiz) and his blacksmith’s son best friend Rafi (Fawad Mohammadi), director Sam French and cowriter Martin Desmond Roe attempt to right this wrong with Buzkashi Boys.

Like all youths around the world, Ahmad and Rafi yearn for more than the life given to them. The former dreams big in hopes of one day getting off the streets to become like his athletic heroes on the Buzkashi fields while the latter seems defeated to his lot of an honorable existence he may never truly love. It’s a perfect example of optimism clashing with pessimism as an exuberant nature makes anything possible and a defeatist demeanor nothing. We all look to exit the shadows of our parents to pave our own way, but it’s not that easy outside our land of opportunity. Sometimes one must accept disappointment because certainty and success are both fickle concepts much more readily lost than acquired.

Shot in Murad Khane, a district of the old Kabul, we’re thrust into the wasteland of a war-torn land its citizens are unable to leave behind. Forced by a lack of wealth and ability to rebuild, they must languish in the melancholic city to do right by their families and earn however meager a living they can. Afghani children cannot afford to fantasize about the big lights and adoring fans of a major league sports contract when a career stands before them that can provide sustenance. To forsake such a life would mean to become an Icarus flying high, the confidence and belief in miracles fooling you into believing you’re immortal until only death can prove you wrong.

Tragedy looms around every corner of a beaten down Afghanistan marred by dilapidated temples and castles still beautiful in deserted and crippled majesty. For two boys who should have an infinite resource of possibilities lying before them, dreams have become liabilities. In order to honor those who have fallen on their journey towards greatness, simply surviving in poverty can be a near impossible act of sacrifice to give. Life is no longer a guarantee in Kabul and children inside such a place learn this lesson at way too young an age.

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