By Najeeb MIRZA


Documentary - Completed 2012

From the shadows of the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan comes a story of three Buzkashi players at the top of their game.  Facing the pressures of a society transforming on and off the playing field, each tries to find his own place in the new Tajikistan. 

& Awards

Hot Docs 2012
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival 2012
Margaret Mead Film Festival 2012
Margaret Mead Film Festival 2012
Lone Star Film Festival 2012
Jean Rouch Film Festival 2013
Santa Barbara Film Festival 2013
Rendez-vous du Cinema Quebecois 2013
    • Year of production
    • 2012
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Duration
    • 82 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Najeeb MIRZA
    • Writer(s)
    • Najeeb MIRZA
    • EIDR 10.5240/1732-F8BF-0856-7BE2-9546-B
    • Producer(s)
    • Micheline SHOEBRIDGE (Oxus Films), Najeeb MIRZA (Oxus Films)
    • Synopsis
    • Since ancient times Central Asian shepherds herding their animals between pastures frequently faced attacks from wolves. To save their flocks brave horsemen would chase and grab the wolves, a skill that eventually evolved into a sport - the wolf replaced by a goat carcass. Playing among a mass of 200-300 horsemen, players demonstrated their individual strength, courage and honor by maneuvering through the scrum to carry the carcass across the goal line.  
      Azam lives in a small, dusty village in southern Tajikistan. He is a shepherd and one of the country’s best Buzkashi players. Following the tradition of his forefathers he plays as an individual, eschewing help from other players to win sheep, cars, carpets and cash. His winnings have helped him maintain a good life for his household of 30 people - his two wives, 10 children, parents, and families of two absent brothers. But times are changing.
      Azam’s success on the Buzkashi field, however, is being increasingly thwarted by competitors playing under alliances, or “mafias”, putting winning above honor. Such “team” play is encouraged by his rival Khurshed, a member of Tajikistan’s nouveau riche who believes that teams are the future of the sport - he wants to make Buzkashi more closely resemble western sports: two teams fielding five players each. But Khurshed is not waiting for the Buzkashi Federation to adopt team play - he already engages a group of better players to strategically help him win.
      Aligned with Azam is the young and principled Askar, an up and coming talent who plays not for material gains but for the honor of his father, murdered during Tajikistan’s tragic civil war. Unlike Azam, however, the young Askar does not soften his public criticism of Khurshed and his “mafia”, leading to considerable tension among them.

      Off the field Azam has his own challenges. Expenses for his growing children are rising, prompting him to sell animals to make up for shortfalls. In the past his winnings from Buzkashi more than adequately supplemented his herding income, but the prizes have been getting smaller and the mafias more difficult to win against. And this year, his sheep have been unexpectedly dying.

      For Azam, shepherding is his vocation, inherited from his forefathers. He always believed that his children would follow in his footsteps, taking over his herds after he’s gone. But his son Tohir has bigger ideas: he wants to continue his studies in the city, wishing to become a doctor one day. If only his father would permit it.

      New year festivities of the spring solstice (Nauruz) also signify the end of the Buzkashi season. It is in these tournaments that the best prizes with the greatest prestige are to be had. Between the challenges on the field and within his own family, Azam must find a place for himself in the new Tajikistan.
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