December 2014. That’s when Abbas Alizada had his 15 seconds of fame. From simply glancing at him, you can see why. Aged 21, the martial artist from Afghanistan was the spitting image of Bruce Lee. The “New Dragon” had been found in a suburb of Kabul.

Three years later, the fame has not lasted – but glamour and accolades were never Alizada’s goals. Jayga Rayn’s film is a warm, gentle profile of an equally warm and gentle individual. The martial artist appears a genuine soul through and through, hoping only for the best of things for his family, his art, and his country. From the off, Rayn establishes Kabul as a difficult place to grow up. Crumbled buildings filled with haunted faces. A kinetic, irksome energy bounding wildly off people and rubble alike. An environment where one had to “save” themselves before becoming consumed by it. Rayn does an excellent job of developing this vibe so quickly and firmly.

Among all this, there is a positivity emanating from the youthful but wise Alizada. His calm words on promoting martial arts to the young of tomorrow, as well as hoping that Afghanistan develops its own cinema industry to inspire the next generation, are a joy to hear. While Rayn never touches on the aftermath or impact of becoming an international internet “superstar”, the real focus is upon the man behind the noise. The martial artist who struggles forward in bleak surroundings, without his greatest champion – his father. The story of how his love affair with martial arts began, meanwhile, is a sweet and charming tale. Creating handmade equipment out of oddments he found, Alizada also received free coaching due to an unaffordable education system. We’re pretty sure the Afghan Bruce Lee would make the original Bruce Lee proud.

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INFORMATION

DIRECTOR: Jayga Rayn

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marc Ressang

SYNOPSIS: This is the story of Abbas Alizada, born and raised in Kabul and a member of the persecuted Hazara minority. An unconventional profile piece, chronicling his journey to martial artist and actor, famous across the world as The Afghan Bruce Lee.