- Culture, History, Human Interest, Portrait, and Arts
The tales of a weathered master-rider weave a picture of a long-forgotten Afghanistan filled with faith, superstition, and tradition that still exist outside the confines of war.
- Show treatment
It is an eight-hour drive north of the militarized capital city: beyond the snow-capped mountains that cradle Kabul, through narrow passages, and still further from the eyes of the Taliban. There are no UN jeeps on patrol, aid workers and paved roads. Like most of Afghanistan, old villages that show the scars of fight pile up in between cities amassing thousands of years.
These are the expanses where history and faith exist alongside the present. Where traditions like buzkashi, a game of polo played with a goat carcass from the vantage of horse-riding men, are held in great esteem.
In a village that values its buzkashi riders, a man recounts his ambitions. His story scales a mischievous childhood to the prestigious sport of buzkashi, without the self-pity of decades of conflict. Hussein, a romantic storyteller borne out of sportsmanship and custom, orates a lifetime that has everything to do with power and faith but nothing to do with war.
Instead, he details milestones of whirling dervishes, arranged marriages, and becoming a buzkashi master rider. The remnants of war -- Russian helmets and a surplus of AK 47s -- exist in buzkashi games and along the story's horizon, but Hussein focuses on his most important experiences.
While the world reports invasions, this is one Afghan's story - the life forgotten amongst news headlines.
Sparlo is the effort and result of my Afghanistan experience, having worked in the country for eighteen months prior to starting the film.
Before I began shooting, I was certain I wanted to avoid the "triumph against adversityâ€ stories and do something that better resembled the character of the country I had experienced.
During the filming of Sparlo, one of the many friends who housed us remarked to me, "Even now you are higher than my Father." I was a guest in his house and the Afghan welcome is second to none. This was the tone I wanted to set.
Without the hospitality of the riders and horse owners, the film would not have been possible. They were no guesthouses where we were filming; yet, here was always a place for us to stay with great company and food.
The sport of buzkashi encapsulates much of the character of the country and was the perfect outlet.
The game itself involves lifting a 30 - 40 pound calf carcass off the ground from the back of a horse, requiring enormous strength and skill, despite the ragged appearance games can take on.
Hussein the old master rider at the center of our film immediately stood out when we met him. Articulate and intelligent, his knowledge of the game and its history was unsurpassed. He had played for kings and presidents and had seen the destruction of the game from the various wars some of which he had fought in and now here he was discussing the game alive and well again in 2010.
It is his spirit, which is at the center of the film, the traditions, history and faith of which he speaks are what we were trying to capture in this film.
- Running time
- 28 minutes
- Keith O'Shea ... Director, Producer & Cinematographer
- Prod. Co.
- Nomad Productions
- Years of Production
- Northern Afghanistan
- Prod. Partners
- Crow Hill Films
- Release year
- Galway Film Festival 2013, IndieCork 2013
- Dari, Pashto, Uzbek, English
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