More at www.afghansayings.com and www.edwardzellem.com.
Friday, February 13, 2015
Fahim Fazli: Hollywood Actor, Author, War Veteran and Afghan-American
Introduction: There is a famous Afghan Proverb that says, “Sar zenda baasha, kolaah besyaar ast.” (If there is life in your head, there are lots of hats.)
سر زنده باشه، کلاه بسیار است
This means that life provides many unique possibilities for action. Although the Proverb is a very ancient one, it could have been written specifically for Afghan-American Hollywood actor, author, and Afghan war veteran Fahim Fazli.
Born and raised in Kabul, in 1983 Fahim escaped the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and made a harrowing journey to Pakistan with his father and brother. He came to the United States as a refugee in 1985 at the age of 19. Needing to support his family, Fahim was not immediately able to pursue his passion for acting for several years. But then he met someone from a California production company who thought Fahim looked like the actor Andy Garcia. He asked Fahim if he would be interested in going to a Hollywood casting call.
Fahim Fazli got the job, and continued working as an extra until qualifying for a Screen Actors Guild membership in 2003. He continued to advance in the Hollywood film community, and in 2006 served as a cultural and technical advisor for "Charlie Wilson's War,” starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts andPhilip Seymour Hoffman. The film about Afghan freedom fighters during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan has been praised for its cultural realism. It was nominated for multiple awards, including a 2008 Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture and multiple individual nominations for Hanks, Roberts and Hoffman.
Fahim Fazli currently lives in Orange County, California and has continued working in television and movies. He also is the founder of Afghans in Hollywood, an organization intended to assist with accurate film representations of Afghan language, dialects, wardrobe, and other cultural and technical knowledge. His memoir, Fahim Speaks, was released in 2012, and later won the Gold Medal Award from the Military Writers Society of America as the year's top military biography.
Edward Zellem: Fahim, it’s a privilege to speak with you. Having served in Afghanistan myself I have a special appreciation of what you did there, and I thank you for your service. In your brilliant autobiography “Fahim Speaks,” you said that one of your passions is to show that people “need not be cultural prisoners, and can choose their own paths.” What do you mean by this, and how can film and filmmaking do this for Afghanistan?
Fahim Fazli: It is important that we show Afghans that they can do and be anything. Too often Afghans are forced into cultural stereotypes, be it an arranged marriage or career choice and are never able to live life to the fullest. They must see that they can do and be anything that they dream of. Because of the low literacy rate in Afghanistan, movie films represent an effective way to connect with large numbers of people to raise awareness about different perspectives while inspiring Afghans to take chances with various career paths.
With Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-TX) on the set of "Charlie Wilson's War"
EZ: As the leading Afghan-American actor and a celebrity in the Afghan diaspora, what is your advice to Afghans living outside Afghanistan on how they can help bring peace and development to their homeland?
Furthermore, I just returned from filming the Iron Man 3 prologue in China, which also borders Afghanistan and has well over a billion people. There isreal interest in Afghanistan stories there. Several people in China told me I MUST have my book translated to Mandarin!
With a lot of the world’s attention having been focused on Afghanistan over the last 30 years, there is much fascination about the country, its rugged and beautiful mountains, its independent people, its remarkable history, its strategic location and its influence on world events. It would help to have a truly charismatic female acting superstar emerge and attain an international reputation. Or a male actor – maybe even me! Ha!
Fahim played an Iranian Komiteh member in Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning film "Argo"
EZ: You’re regularly cast as a terrorist or “bad guy” in films like Iron Man, Eagle Eye, Hired Gun, and of course the Academy Award-winning filmArgo. You’ve also played a bad guy on television shows like 24 and The Unit. But there also are plenty of Afghan heroes in history - both male and female, past and present. If you could make a movie about an Afghan hero of any era, who are the top three you would select?
FF: There are and have been many Afghan heroes, but if I had to choose, I would pick these three:
Ahmad Shah Massoud: A hugely charismatic leader who was assassinated by Al Qaeda just before 9/11. He undoubtedly would have gone on to do great things.
Haji Abdul Latif: Known as “The Lion of Kandahar, “ he fought and commanded the Mujahideen against the Soviets and was a member of my tribe, the Barakzais.
Malala Yousufzai: The young Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for advocating girls' education.
EZ: You’ve said that female empowerment challenges the very foundations of the Taliban belief system; that elevating the status of women will temper the violence in Afghanistan; and that Afghan females need good role models. Please tell us your thoughts on that and how film can help.
FF: I think any film depicting a strong woman who follows her convictions would go a long way in empowering women. Afghan women have been told they must dress a certain way, that they cannot show too much skin, they cannot work, they cannot make any decisions, and everything is to be decided by their father and then their husband. This is no way to live. As the Afghan Dari Proverb says, “Hama-raa ba yak chashm negaah kuneed.”