Fawad Mohammadi has spent half his life peddling maps and dictionaries to foreigners on a street of trinket shops in Kabul. Now the 14-year-old Afghan boy with bright green eyes is getting ready for a trip down the red carpet at the Oscars.
It will also be his first time out of the country and his first time on a plane.
Mohammadi was plucked from the dingy streets of the Afghan capital to be one of the main stars of "Buzkashi Boys," a coming-of-age movie filmed entirely in a war zone and nominated in the Best Live Action Short Film category.
The movie is about two penniless young boys, a street urchin and a blacksmith's son, who are best friends and dream of becoming professional players of buzkashi, a particularly rough and dangerous game that somewhat resembles polo: Horseback riders wrangle to get a headless goat carcass into a circular goal at one end of the field.
It's also part of an American director's effort to help revive a film industry devastated by decades of civil war and by the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist movement that banned entertainment and burned films and theatres during its five years in power.
Sam French, a Philadelphia native who has lived in Afghanistan for about five years, said his 28-minute movie was initially conceived as a way of training local film industry workers, the first installment in his non-profit Afghan Film Project.
"We never dreamed of having the film come this far and get an Oscar nomination," French, 36, said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he is preparing for the Feb. 24 Academy Awards and raising money to fly the two young co-stars in for the ceremony.