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Cape Town - After narrowly winning a race against time to get extended refugee status, passports and visas, brothers Harun and Ali Mohammed flew from Cape Town to Hollywood on Friday for Sunday’s Academy Awards, where their film Asad will compete in the best short film category.
The Somali refugee child stars, who live in Cape Town, will be accompanied by their father, Mahdi Hassan Mohammed, and will meet up in Los Angeles with Rafiq Samsodien, Asad’s South African producer, who worked tirelessly to make the trip happen.
Written and directed by acclaimed US television advertising director Bryan Buckley, of Hungry Man, 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. Filming in Somalia would have been too dangerous, so the short film was shot in Paternoster.
Asad has won awards at 13 festivals around the world, and has just received a glowing endorsement from Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. “Asad is at once a painful reminder of the xenophobia that shamefully still exists in South Africa, and a heartwarming tribute to our special ability as members of the human family to heal ourselves,” Tutu said.
The short film was sparked in part by a UN short documentary, No Autographs, which brought Buckley and his producer Mino Jarjoura to refugee camps in Kenya and Sudan in 2010. Spoken in Somali with English subtitles, it stars an all-refugee cast, headed by Harun, 14, and Ali, 12. The brothers live just outside Cape Town with their parents and 13 siblings.
Neither of the two spoke English, so they had to supply a translator.
The boys had also never attended school, so they were illiterate and had to memorise their lines without a script or written point of reference.