17 January 2013
South African-set short film Asad, featuring Somali refugees living in Cape Town, has a fully stocked trophy cabinet but is looking to pick up one more award after being nominated for an Oscar in the “best short film” category.
The film has already scooped up 13 awards from festivals around the world, including the Tribeca, Raindance and Los Angeles film festivals, for its portrayal of a Somali boy refugee named Asad.
Shot in Paternoster on the Cape west coast, which was transformed into what looked like a traditional Somali fishing village, the story follows the lives of ordinary Somalis who fled their war-torn homeland.
The film was a collaboration between American director Bryan Buckley’s Hungry Man Films company and Cape Town producer Rafiq Samsodien from The Asylum.
Buckley decided to do the film after he worked with the United Nations Human Rights Council in Kenya in 2010, when he shot a documentary called No Autographs to raise awareness about increasing numbers of refugees.
“Upon returning to the United States, we made it our mission to continue to tell their untold stories, to shed light on the people of Somalia and their unfathomable struggles,” Asad producer Mino Jarjoura sayd on the film’s website.
Because of the political situation in Somalia, Buckley decided to shoot it in South Africa, which is increasingly being recognised as a favourable film production destination.
“[The result is] a film whose entire cast is made up of refugees who fled to South Africa,” Jarjoura says.
The film’s leading actors, Harun and Ali Mohammed, were illiterate when filming started. “They came from a family of 16 children who had fled war-torn Somalia to South Africa six months earlier,” Buckley says.
“No they had the daunting task of memorising 19 pages of dialogue in front of a camera with a director who didn’t know how to say anything but ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in Somali.
“And yet, five long shoot days later, we ended up capturing a little bit of these boys’ spirit. And a little bit of a forgotten country’s soul.”