TRIBECA REVIEW: ‘Asad’

'Asad' — Photo courtesy of Scott Henriksen

Asad, the new short film from director Bryan Buckley, is one of the strongest entries at the Tribeca Film Festival. It only runs 18 minutes, but it packs an emotional punch.

In the movie, a young Somali boy plays on the beach and dreams of one day being old enough to join the pirates from his local community. He watches them bypass the fishing poles and instead head for international waters and foreign ships. For the young, impressionable mind, they’re cool, they’re living the dream, they’re somebody.

But the boy faces reality when an older fisherman emerges on the horizon, bringing to the beach an enormous fish to feed the family. And within this simple parable, we find the main crux of Asad: This little boy is constantly pulled between the older, traditional ways and the new world that emerges from the violence and poverty of the region.

The movie is not humorous or upbeat; however, it does feel human and real. The boy runs around the village with the huge fish hanging off his shoulders like any boy in any village anywhere. He’s happy. He finds his friend on the street. There’s almost a skip in his step. But then the image is shattered by the presence of armed guards who pass through his home, looking for food and opportunities to spread their malice.

Of all the short films at Tribeca, Asad feels like it could be expanded one day into a feature. This boy and his troubles shouldn’t be relegated to a few minutes. The story of modern-day Somalia has entered the international conversation. Pirates who originate on the country’s shores have disrupted shipping routes, and the fallout has been felt worldwide. Stories like this one need to be told.

One minor critique: Although these actors, all of whom are Somali refugees, give a great sense of authenticity to the story, they struggle a little bit with the weighty material. Speaking in their native language, they are able to mask some of the inexperience, but if Asad has ambitions beyond this short film, having a few of the major characters brought to life by professionals might be worth consideration.

The film is part of the Character Flaws program at Tribeca.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Asad will play April 21 at 3 p.m. (AMC Loews Village 7); April 25 at 7:30 p.m. (Clearview Cinemas Chelsea 9); April 27 at Noon (AMC Loews Village 7); and April 29 at 1:30 p.m. (Tribeca Cinemas Theater 1). Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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