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From Boise to Kabul to the Oscars

Nels Bangerter's film, Buzkashi Boys, is now playing at The Flicks in Boise

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The handwriting was clearly that of a 4-year-old. "Doctor" was spelled "D-o-o-r-k-a-t."

"I thought this was so sweet," said Heidi Bangerter, pointing to a framed piece of white paper that listed in very neat penmanship the professional dreams of her then 4-year-old son, Nels.

"Let's see, there's detective, doctor. ... I think this says pot-maker," she said with a laugh.

Filmmaker wasn't on the list, let alone Oscar nominee. But now Bangerter is all smiles thinking about the Academy Awards, slated for Sunday, Feb. 24.

"I'm delighted," she said. "I'm sending emails to everyone I know."

And if those calls don't encourage enough local friends to see her son's film, she'll catch them at the box office.

"I'm an usher at The Flicks," she said, adding that the Boise theater is showcasing Nels' work as part of the bundle of Oscar-nominated live-action short subjects.

Nels Bangerter is the film editor of Buzkashi Boys, the critically acclaimed original story of two Afghan boys who dream of playing Buzkashi--a lawless sport featuring equal parts spectacle and horror.

"I first heard about the project two years ago when I got a call from my friend Sam to go over there and edit on location," Nels told Boise Weekly from his home in Oakland, Calif.

"Sam" is Sam French, writer/director of Buzkashi Boys, and "over there" is Kabul, Afghanistan, where Bangerter worked on the 29-minute film about Afghanistan's national sport, a game of polo played with a dead goat carcass instead of a ball.

"I was really excited," he said. "Editors don't often travel. It's a job you can do anywhere your hard drive is. But a big part of this film was our goal to train Afghans on filmmaking. A lot the people we worked with--mostly in their 20s--have very little film knowledge. It's funny; the films they usually see are Transformers or something starring Tom Cruise."

But training Afghans on how to craft a film wasn't Bangerter's and French's only intent. In fact, they had their eyes on the prize: the big one.

"Honestly, one of our goals was to make something that could win an Academy Award," Bangerter said. "We thought we did a pretty great job."

Sure enough, just past 5 a.m. on Jan. 10, Bangerter woke up to hear that Buzkashi Boys was nominated for Best Live Action Short Subject. But Nels and his wife, Saira, had to limit their celebration. They have a much more important project at hand: a new baby born Dec. 31, 2012.

"We'll be home on Oscar night," said Bangerter. "We'll have a few friends over and cross our fingers."

Heidi, who recently traveled to California to help celebrate her son's success, will be watching, too, probably with a group of her fellow retirees--she recently stepped away from her job as a counselor at Boise High School for 20-plus years.

"I love the movies; I see everything," she said, adding that some of her favorites this year are Silver Linings Playbook and just about anything playing at The Flicks. "We always used to joke that one day we would go to the Oscars."

But the Bangerters won't be in Hollywood Feb. 24. Heidi said she's sure they already won.

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