BCIT meets Hollywood at this month’s Oscars

Hollywood gets a slice of BCIT at this month’s Academy Awards

Photo courtesy of Leslie Knott/Twitter

Photo courtesy of Leslie Knott/Twitter

BCIT graduate Leslie Knott is up for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short for her film Buzkashi Boys.

Knott moved to Afghanistan in 2004 after graduating from BCIT’s broadcast journalism program. She was offered a six-month contract to start up a radio station in Maimama, created for women and run by women. Almost nine years later, she’s still living in
Afghanistan.

In 2010, Knott read the script for Buzkashi Boys, a coming-of-age story about two friends growing up in Kabul.

The script was written by Sam French and his friend Martin Roe, and provided a glimpse of Afghanistan that Knott believed the Western world had yet to see.

Set against the national sport of Buzkashi — a game of horse polo played with a dead goat — the two young friends dream of better lives outside of their homes in war-torn Afghanistan.

Buzkashi Boys was the first film made through the Afghan Film Project, an organization founded by Knott, French and fellow producer Ariel Nasr. The trio started the foundation in 2009 with the intention of cultivating the Afghani film industry.

“There is a long history of Afghan film making, but they don’t have access to up to date training and up to date equipment and all the grants that are out there in the wider world. We are trying to build a bridge to use [our] contacts [and] connect them to future talent in Afghanistan,” said Knott in a phone interview with The Link.

The American Embassy funded part of the film and the team raised the rest. Then they had to search for actors and a crew.

“We had a team that came over from Los Angeles and we paired them up with Afghan counterparts so they could get on the job training of film production,” explained Knott.

The film took two-and-a-half weeks to shoot on location in Kabul. After an additional year in pre and post-production, the film was ready to be released.

“It’s really hard, as you can imagine, shooting a film in Afghanistan,” said Knott.

“There was a security issue and we had to make sure the team felt safe that came from California. We also didn’t have any official hardware stores and we had to build everything from scratch.”

[pullquote]“There was a security issue and we had to make sure the team felt safe that came from California. We also didn’t have any official hardware stores and we had to build everything from scratch.”[/pullquote]

Hardships aside, the film was met with immense praise when it premiered in October. It received several awards during the film festival circuit this winter, and achieved prestige when it was nominated for an Academy Award in January.

“It is a pretty incredible feeling to know that so many people are going to be able to access our project and hopefully be able to see our project. And it’s amazing because we had no idea that it would get this far when we worked on it two years ago,” exclaimed Knott proudly.

Whether or not Buzkashi Boys walks away with a little gold statue, Knott believes it has served the Afghan Film Project’s purpose in showing the Western world a different side of Afghanistan.

The organization is in the process of planning an Afghani film festival, but still requires funding for the project. Knott hopes the success of Buzkashi Boys will help these efforts.

[pullquote]“I think the most exciting thing is the attention it will give to Afghanistan and the film making potential that lives there,” said Knott.[/pullquote]

The Awards Circuit predicts that Buzkashi Boys is a frontrunner for the Oscars. Another project in Cameroon, however, may prevent Knott from being able to attend the February ceremony to cheer on her team.

“I hope this isn’t the last chance I get to go to the Oscars,” she said.

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