Hot Docs 2012: ‘Buzkashi!’ is almost as unscrupulous as its antagonist
Directed by Najeeb Mizra
For centuries, shepherds in Central Asia have been driving their flock to greener pastures under the constant threat of attacking wolves. To protect their herd, men on horseback would chase the wolves, and pick them right off the ground. Over time, this practice evolved into a sport, where the object of the game is to capture a goat carcass and carry it across a goal line. A catholic mix of polo, rugby and horseback Quidditch, the sport, and Najeeb Mizra’s documentary, is called Buzkashi!.
To profile this arcane sport, we are introduced to two of its most prolific players; Tajikistani rivals Azam and Khurshed. As we follow their lives, we come to learn about the country’s history and culture, which gives us a greater appreciation for their love, and disenchantment, for the game.
Azam is very much the traditional player. Individually, he has become one of the most celebrated Buzkashi players in the country, using his winnings to maintain his modest lifestyle as a shepherd (which consists of two wives, 10 children, and hundreds of sheep). For him, the game is about tradition, honour, and pride.