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Post-Oscars, Fawad Reflects on Hollywood and Life in Kabul

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In my Global Innovation class we have a daunting task ahead. We worked in teams and designed global immersion trips. That was the fun part and now the big task ahead is for each of us to earn money to travel on the trips we designed. We're using Kickstarter and also working on business ideas. In attempt to boost our confidence Rahilla Zafar, one of my teachers for this course, shared a quote with us from Walt Disney, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." It made me reflect that there have been many times in my life I find the word "impossible" to be a very difficult barrier to cross. This can be discouraging when it comes to chasing your dreams and working towards success. That is why when I hear of a teenager doing the impossible, I am utterly inspired. Rahilla shared the story of a young Afghan boy she knew who went from selling maps on the streets of Kabul to acting in an Oscar-nominated film. I found this to be the ultimate story of rags to riches and was so intrigued that this boy was a teenager just like me. When she offered the opportunity to interview the young actor, Fawad Mohammadi, I jumped at it with enthusiasm. While interviewing Fawad, I discovered his story before, during, and after filming the short film, Buzkashi Boys (directed by Sam French), and learned about his constant ambition to accomplish the impossible. 

When interviewing Fawad, I first asked about his past. I thought knowing his story starting from the streets would be helpful in understanding him as the person he is today. He described to me that he began selling chew games on Chicken Street, a popular vending area in Afghanistan, when he was just 5-years-old. When he was a little older, he started to sell maps and acted as a bit of a tour guide for foreigners visiting Kabul. Interacting daily with people from many different countries spurred his interest in wanting to understand what the world was like outside of Afghanistan. Fawad mentioned that all the tourists that he interacted with on Chicken Street were always kind to him, and for that he is thankful. One man from France, who was particularly nice to Fawad, told him that he was looking for two boys to act in a movie that director Sam French was working on. After Fawad's mother agreed to let him be in the film, he and another boy, his co-star Jawanmard Paiz, spent two days with the man from France who had discovered them. Then they were finally introduced to Sam French himself. After about a year, filming began for Buzkashi Boys, and Fawad began acting for the first time in his life. 

When filming officially started, Fawad was working with a foreign crew and described his initial experience as doing something that was completely unfamiliar to him. Naturally, he was nervous and unsure but kept an upbeat and happy attitude throughout the process. By the end, Fawad fully enjoyed working with a crew of people completely different than him and acquired a new best friend, Jawanmard Paiz. During our interview, I also asked Fawad what the most difficult parts of being in a movie were. He replied by telling me about the exercises that they did in rehearsals and while shooting and described that they were not easy, yet not too difficult to handle. It was situations like these and other new challenges that he said made his experience so unique and memorable. 

However, Fawad did not know if his work would be successful and certainly did not expect an Oscar nomination! I asked him to tell me about the moment he was informed about the Oscars and he described the situation saying, "I was in Internet cafe with NBC news and they told me [about the Oscar] and also Sam French called me. I was so happy and started to cry!" Fawad went on to say that he could not believe his situation because he knew it was the dream of all actors and actresses to walk on the red carpet. 

This dream finally became a reality when he was given the opportunity to attend the Oscars on February 24, 2013. He traveled with the director, Jawanmard Paiz, and his mentor/friend from home, along with other actors and members of the crew. Although Buzkashi Boys did not win, he enjoyed every second that he spent in America because he knew it was such a privilege. Fawad told me that he was intrigued about how different the United States was from Afghanistan and that everything was bigger (the buildings, roads, etc.). He very much enjoyed his time in the U.S. and at the Oscars and is now back in Kabul, but is no longer selling maps. Instead, he is just attending school and is frequently confronted by both foreigners and locals who recognize him. This recognition helps him realize how blessed he truly is.