Ariel Nasr

Filmmaker

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), History of Science and Technology and Classics, 2005

Documentary is wonderful because you can follow this story unfolding in front of you.

It is hard to imagine how tendonitis can lead to an Oscar nomination, but it did, in a round about way, for Ariel Nasr.

This part of his story begins with Ariel cutting wood.

“I suffered a repetitive strain injury using a chainsaw that turned into chronic tendonitis,” Ariel told an interviewer from Schema Magazine. “Since I couldn’t continue with farm work until it healed, I decided to spend a year at university and once I started reading, I had no desire to stop.”

The Foundation Year Programme (FYP) can have that effect on people, and it certainly did on Ariel. After his first year he majored in History of Science and Technology (HOST) and Classics.

“I remember going from this one perspective to the other and just loving the contrast between the two things,” he says. And that, he would find out, is at the core of making documentaries.

“You see one perspective, one reality, and you say ‘Yes’. Then you go to another one and you say ‘Yes, and…Yes, and..’ Documentary is wonderful because you can follow this story unfolding in front of you.”

Ariel began his filmmaking career in his final year at King’s – a documentary about that most pressing student issue, rising tuition fees. More filmmaking would follow and the content would shift dramatically. Soon after graduating Ariel travelled to Afghanistan, his father’s homeland. What he discovered there, with his burgeoning interest in documentary films, was “the nuance and complexity of this place that is full of millions of stories.”

Ariel eventually moved to Afghanistan for several years. He co-founded an NGO called the Afghan Film Project through which he helped young filmmakers in Afghanistan learn their craft. 

Meanwhile, Ariel was developing his own craft. His film credits started to add up – writer and director of Good Morning Kandahar and The Boxing Girls of Kabul, documentaries for the National Film Board. He won awards for both, including a Canadian Screen Award for Boxing Girls of Kabul.

Ariel switched from documentary to fiction when he produced the short film Buzkashi Boys. It’s a coming of age story of two young Afghan boys, set in Kabul. The awards flowed in – the L.A. Shorts Fest, the Raindance Film Festival, the UK Film Festival among them. But the big one was the nomination for an Academy Award for the Best Live Action Short Film in 2013.

“Getting nominated for an Oscar, there’s no better way to make the point that Afghanistan has filmmaking talents that go way beyond (films about) war,” he told the Toronto Star.

The journey from chronic tendonitis to the red carpet in LA is an auspicious beginning to what may well be a lifelong pursuit of filmmaking.

“We’ll see what the next chapter is,” he says. I’ve always been an experimenter. It’s always about just doing the next project.”

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