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Sun May 29 19:23:11 SAST 2016

Mad dash to the Oscars

NASHIRA DAVIDS | 25 February, 2013 00:37
A scene from the South African-produced movie 'Asad', which has been nominated for best short film

About nine years ago Harun Mohammed and his brother, Ali, fled their home in Somalia and sought refuge in South Africa.

Last night, the two brothers rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty of the film world when the movie in which they starred was nominated for an Academy Award in the live action, short film category.

After fleeing with their family in 2004, the young refugees ended up in Cape Town where they were cast to play the leading roles in the film Asad. It is a story about a Somali boy who has only two options in life - become a pirate or an honest fisherman.

But the drama to get the boys to the Oscars at the weekend could itself have been the story-line of a compelling movie script.

Harun, 14, and Ali, 12, would not have been able to attend the ceremony if it had not been for a cast of helpers that included the South African ambassador to the US, Ebrahim Rasool, Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, Melanie Mahona of the Western Cape government and Malia Heroux, of the US consulate.

When the news of the film's nomination broke, the two boys and their father, Mahdi, did not have passports.

Mahona and the film's South African co-producer, Rafiq Samsodien, contacted Rasool, who helped get the children passports in four days.

"The father's passport was a bit more complicated because he did not have an ID and we had to do both applications," said Mahona.

On Tuesday night, a day before they were scheduled to fly, Pandor had Mahdi's passport delivered to Cape Town.

But the authorities in Washington DC cleared only Ali's visa so they could not leave.

"The American director called the White House to expedite the clearance of the father and Harun. This was done overnight."

By 9.20am on Friday the documents were ready for collection and Heroux had it printed at the consulate in only 20 minutes.

Then the mad dash began. Their tickets had to be reissued, the documents had to be collected at the consulate and the family needed a lift to the airport. The siblings and their father boarded a plane on Friday just hours after all the visas had been issued.

"When we had the first screening of Asad I saw the kids' clothes were tattered and I felt that we should reach out to the corporates," said Mahona.

Woolworths gave each of them an outfit, Mayett International sponsored designer clothes and businessmen Marcel Golding and Anwah Nagia gave cash.


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