One of the things I love most about being a journalist is the way that strange little tales turn up in the strangest of places. Fawad Mohammadi and his amazing film is the perfect example of that.
This time last year we had spent a week filming a series of reports with Save the Children on the dreadful malnutrition that is blighting the lives of so many of Afghanistan’s young.
In Kabul, in villages and in refugee camps we saw the gruelling reality of life in a country that for so long has been devoid of peace or prosperity. It was thoroughly depressing and we were left with a feeling of a country without hope.
It is easy to develop such a view after a week seeing little but suffering.
Chatting to many of the charity workers living there however it became clear that despite all its struggles there were real efforts going on to bring some change to Afghanistan.
And that is when I heard about Fawad. So many of the people I spoke to kept talking about this amazing boy who eked out a living on Chicken Street in the centre of Kabul and who was starring in a film.
I could not resist hearing his story and so one snowy morning we went to find him. And there he was in the biting cold, selling the maps, chewing gum and bits and bobs that have earned him and his family a living.
It did not take long to realise why this boy – who is not totally sure how old he is, somewhere between 12 to 14, offers such hope.
In the flawless English he has picked up working on the street for seven years he told me how he juggled his work and his schooling so he could earn money for his family and still secure the education he so believed in for his future.
Without any pity or bitterness he told of the friends he had lost in explosions in Kabul, of life in a place where life is often under threat, of the brutality he had experienced on the streets and of the kindness of strangers who he had met in the same place.
And then he told me about the film – and how it had changed his life. Buzkashi Boys is about two street children who dream of being Buzkashi players.
Buzkashi is polo Afghan style so without a ball they play for a goat carcass – it is fast, violent and the riders are the stuff of legend. The film follows the boys as they chase their dream.
What struck me was when I asked Fawad just how the film had changed his life he told me it had made him realise how difficult other people’s lives were and how he wanted to work hard to achieve success and help others. Most people looking at this child’s life would find it hard to believe there could be harder ones.
So now the little boy from the streets of Kabul is the star of an Oscar nominated film. He and others from the Afghan Film Project will be heading for LA and a very different world.
What an experience that will be for someone who has never left Afghanistan and never really thought he would.
Buzkashi Boys is about learning to dream – Fawad Mohammadi can hardly dare to now as he waits to see whether he and his fellow film-makers will be bringing an Oscar back to Kabul.