Richard Hardy and Jimmy Bustos of Delsur Productions asked for my advice on preparing a marketing plan for their AFA grant application for the promotion of their recently released 20 minute short Slingshot. It’s a story about redemption, trust and basic humanity between two people of different generations, religions, locations and background. One is a 13-year-old afghan boy, who calls upon Allah for guidance during some harsh times. The other is a Canadian soldier who has morally, physically and spiritual lost his way. They come across each other in the barren mountains of Afghanistan, the boy celebrating his faith, compassion and humanity, the soldier simultaneously attracted and repelled by the boy’s way of life, food and religion.
Shot in Drumheller in August 2008, the film stars Richard Hardy, who co-directed and co-produced the film along with Jimmy Bustos who also edited the film and his brother, Manual Bustos, who helped the two of them produce it. The role of the young afghan boy is played by Najibullah Abbasi, a recent immigrant to Canada now attending Grade 11 at O’Leary High School in Edmonton. The story of how young Najibullah came to be in the film is an interesting and fortuitous one. He and his sister both applied for the role after reading a classified ad in the Edmonton Journal seeking a young afghan actor for their film. The directors selected Najibullah for the role and, to their astonishment and life-long gratitude, the rest of the family, his sister, five brothers, his mother and his father enthusiastically formed the production team. His mother created all the costumes and booked the authentic afghan food used in the film and fed to the crew. The father and the brothers were activity involved in the rehearsals, transportation, script translation and helped build the set. “We couldn’t have produced the film without their help, hard work and support. They made what seemed impossible, possible,” recalls Richard.
Najibullah and his family had recently emigrated from Afghanistan. Najibullah, for one, found the transition a difficult one. In Afghanistan the family was well off and well respected in their community. Like the soldier in the film, when he found himself in Alberta, he became a stranger in a strange land. When his family moved to Edmonton, Najibullah brought his interest in acting with him, an interest that will likely sustain him through the transition as he acclimatizes himself to a new life in a new land surrounded by a foreign culture, climate and way of life.
The film is a story told without words. The soldier speaks two lines in the film, the boy one. The rest of the story is conveyed with music, visuals and body language. The sound and cinematography is exceptional for an early film from emerging filmmakers honing their craft on a shoestring budget. Jimmy’s experience as an editor at Cine Audio is put to good use as is Richard’s training at the William Davies Centre for Actors’ Study in Vancouver. I found the film mesmerizing and intense despite its lack of narrative or action. There’s a scene towards the end of the film where the soldier stands on the precipice of evil that is hard to watch for fear he might give in to his basest instincts. Like all life changing decisions that people make in their lives, citizens or soldiers, the film could have one of many endings. The ending the filmmakers choose was both surprising and subtle.
The film was directed by Jimmy Bustos and Richard Hardy, produced by Jimmy Bustos, Manual Bustos and Richard Hardy6 and edited by Jimmy Bustos.
Slingshot is receiving a warm reception. It was nominated for 8 Rosie Awards, celelebrating outstanding achievement in filmmaking in Alberta, and it took home the award for Best Short Film and others. It is now vying for the same award at the Calgary International Festival in the Alberta Spirit Competition. As a result of my encouragement they have entered the film in the Sundance Film Festival this September and agreed to allow me to provide the password to the video site where the film is available to my newsletter readers. Check it out. You’ll find it visceral, powerful and unforgettable experience.
Richard and Jimmy are wrapping up their latest production – sixty one minute vignettes of exceptional first and second generation Alberta immigrants. They began shooting in May 2010 and they expect to complete this October. The vignettes are set to air on OMNI TV in Alberta sometime this November.