Updated: January 10, 2013 6:25 PM | By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press, thecanadianpress.com

Two Canucks get live-action short Oscar nods

TORONTO - When Montreal actor-filmmaker Yan England lived in Los Angeles for five years in the 2000s, he would stare longingly at the steps of what was then called the Kodak Theater, the home of the Academy Awards.


Two Canucks get live-action short Oscar nods

Halifax native Ariel Nasr has received an Oscar nomination in the live-action short category for “Buzkashi Boys.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho

TORONTO - When Montreal actor-filmmaker Yan England lived in Los Angeles for five years in the 2000s, he would stare longingly at the steps of what was then called the Kodak Theater, the home of the Academy Awards.

"But I've never wanted to go up those stairs," England, 30, said Thursday in a phone interview from Montreal.

"I've always told myself, 'No, don't walk up those stairs because if you ever get the slightest possibility ever in your life, maybe, to be nominated at the Academy Awards, then you'll walk up those stairs for the first time. Other than that, don't."

England is now able to fulfil that promise, thanks to his Oscar nomination in the live-action short category for his 21-minute French-language drama "Henry."

Another Canadian also got a nod in the same category on Thursday: Halifax native Ariel Nasr, producer of the 28-minute Afghanistan-shot "Buzkashi Boys."

"It's incredibly humbling, thrilling," Nasr said in a telephone interview from his home in Montreal shortly after the nominations were announced.

England wrote, produced and directed "Henry," about an 84-year-old concert pianist who is shaken by the mysterious disappearance of the love of his life. Quebec's Gerard Poirier stars in the title role and Louise Laprade plays his wife.

The Montreal-shot film is inspired by England's experiences with his own grandfather, who had Alzheimer's disease before dying at age 96.

Given the personal nature of the project, England was naturally choked up with he learned he'd made the Oscar cut.

Making the situation more intense: he heard the news while co-hosting his morning CKOI radio show and with parents in-studio.

"I just burst into tears and I cried and I was laughing, I was yelling," said England.

"It was a mix of all the possible emotions that went through me. It's actually the best moment of my life, so far."

Nasr, meanwhile, is hoping the Oscar love will not only raise the profile of his project but also of filmmaking in Afghanistan.

That's because "Buzkashi Boys," about two Afghan boys who long to professionally play the country's brutal horse-polo sport, was shot in Kabul in February 2011 and produced through the non-profit Afghan Film Project.

Nasr and American director Sam French co-founded the project, which aims to tell Afghan stories and build the capacity of the country's movie industry. As a result, they employed local actors (Fawad Mohammadi, Jawanmard Paiz and Wali Talash) and let Afghan film interns work on the feature with the international crew.

"It's really a fledgling industry," said Nasr, who has lived in Afghanistan, where his father is from.

"The talent and drive and stories are all there. But the human resources and the equipment and infrastructure is not so much there yet."

Of course, shooting in the war-torn country is also still dangerous, as the crew discovered.

"I remember the crew getting a little bit nervous when there was a bombing in the city at the same time as we were shooting," said Nasr, 34, noting they'd taken great precautions to ensure safety during filming.

"It didn't directly affect us, it had nothing to do with us, but it definitely made the crew jumpy."

Nasr hopes to attend the Academy Awards bash on Feb. 24 with one of the film's Afghan stars.

England also plans to attend the show and said he'll be soaking in every second of the experience.

"If Steven Spielberg just walked by, I'm not going to be all mushy mushy but I'm going to be like, man, this is Spielberg. All right, 'Hello, Mr. Spielberg.' It's just super cool. That's the only thing I can say."

Other contenders in the Oscar category include the Somalia-set "Asad" by Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura; "Curfew" by Shawn Christensen of the U.S.; and Belgium's "Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)," by Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele.

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