Fawad Mohammadi (14), the lead in the Oscar-nominated short-film Buzkashi Boys, was a hawker until last year.
Fawad Mohammadi, 14, has two wishes as he leaves Afghanistan for the United States this week: meeting Rambo, whose real name he does not know, and visiting Disneyland, which he has heard a little about.
Until last year, the cheerful teenager worked as a street-hawker, selling maps and language guides to expats in Kabul’s Chicken Street.
But after several twists of fate, he was to walk down the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday, hobnobbing with Hollywood stars.
Mohammadi plays the main character in the movie Buzkashi Boys, nominated for an Oscar in the Short Film (Live Action) category.
The 30-minute piece, directed by American filmmaker Sam French as part of the Afghan Film Project that trains local filmmakers, has been lauded for its dark, beautiful portrayal of the cityscapes of the old Afghan capital.
The film industry in Afghanistan is small and undeveloped after decades of war, and a ban on movies imposed by the Taliban rulers between 1996 and 2001.
Shot in Kabul, the film revolves around the friendship of two young boys from an impoverished background and their common love of buzkashi, a sport played on horseback with the headless carcass of a calf.
For Mohammadi, French is a genius, who has “shown his talent to the world” by turning “a street boy selling maps” into “an actor,” he said.
“I can’t explain how I felt when I heard the movie was nominated for an Oscar. I was very excited and tears were rolling down my face,” said the young actor.
Chicken Street in Kabul’s upscale neighbourhood is full of shops, selling carpets, shawls, gemstones, and antiques.
Mohammadi said he always thought he would become a “rich man” one day.
“But I never thought of becoming an actor in a movie and the movie will go to the Oscars,” he said.
He wants to be an actor and pilot when he grows up, Mohammadi said.
“But this is the first time I will be flying in an airplane. Maybe I will ask the pilot to show me where he sits.” His father died around five years ago.
Mohammadi’s family are originally from neighbouring Parwan province, that has seen a rise in insurgent activities in recent years.
“Lots of Afghans are telling me not to come back (from the US),” he said, because of the deteriorating security in parts of the country.
“I tell them that I will come back because the people who helped me want me to be here. I want to be here.” He still sells maps in the same street sometimes. After school, he usually hangs out with his friends, even though he has become something of a local celebrity.DPA
Lots of Afghans are telling me not to come back (from the U.S.)