PUBLICITY Asad, shot on the west coast of Cape Town and featuring Somali refugees living in the South African city, has received an Oscar nomination in the Best Short Film category.
Asad is the result of a collaboration between US director Bryan Buckley and producer Mino Jarjoura of Hungry Man. Jarjoura brought the project to long-time friend and colleague Rafiq Samsodien to co-produce in South Africa.
The story of Asad takes us into the lives of ordinary people in a seaside village in Somalia, providing the audience with a glimpse into the daily struggles of ordinary Somalis living in a dysfunctional and failed state. Asad is a young boy faced with choices in a land where survival is a daily challenge.
Buckley was inspired to make this film after visiting a UN refugee camp in Kenya. “The Somalis have an underlying humour and are not afraid to laugh,” he says. While the film clearly shows the often brutal nature of life for ordinary Somalis, a gentle sense of humour runs as an underlying thread throughout the story, creating a film which has as its essence a sense of hope, rather than despair.
Due to the political instability in Somalia, Buckley decided to shoot the film in South Africa, which has a vibrant film industry and many diverse locations.
Casting director Jeanne Wegner plucked the cast out of their obscure environment in the down-at-the-heel part of Bellville, where she set up temporary audition facilities in the local library.
Language barriers between cast and crew were overcome as the west coast town of Paternoster became transformed to resemble a Somali fishing village. In the words of Somali actress Laila Jamal, the cast “were crying, remembering their country,” and in the process delivering what judges at the Tribeca Film Festival described as “an array of brilliant performances.”
Asad scooped Best Short Film awards at 13 festivals around the world during the past year and bringing an Oscar to their adopted homeland would go a long way towards helping the South African Somali community find acceptance in a country which has not always welcomed them with open arms.