‘Asad’ child stars make it in time for Oscars

2013-02-23 00:00

AFTER narrowly winning a race against time to get passports and visas, brothers Harun and Ali Mohammed flew from Cape Town to Hollywood yesterday to attend the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Their film Asad is up for an Oscar in the best short film category.

The Somali refugee child stars will be accompanied by their father, Mahdi Hassan Mohamed, and will meet up in LA with Rafiq Samsodien, Asad’s South African producer.

Written and directed by American director Bryan Buckley, Asad is set in a war-torn fishing village in Somalia and follows a 12-year-old boy who must decide between falling into the pirate life and rising above it to become an honest fisherman.

The film, which has scooped awards from 13 festivals around the world, was inspired by a United Nations short documentary, No Autographs, which brought Buckley and his producer Mino Jarjoura to refugee camps in Kenya and Sudan in 2010. Filming in Somalia would have been too dangerous, however, so the film was shot in Paternoster.

Before filming started, neither Harun nor Ali spoke English, and neither had attended school. They had to memorise their lines without a script or written point of reference.

“These two kids were diamonds in the rough,” Rafiq says.

All prize money Asad receives from festivals goes towards the boys’ school expenses. Since March 2012, they have progressed from illiteracy to excelling in the fourth grade, in English. • arts@witness.co.za

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