Netflix has bolstered its slate of Oscar short hopefuls with the acquisition of “Three Songs for Benazir.”
Directed by Gulistan and Elizabeth Mirzaei, the 22-minute docu tells the story of Shaista, a young man who is a refugee living in modern-day Afghanistan. Newly married to Benazir and living in a camp for displaced persons in Kabul, Shaista struggles to balance his dreams of being the first from his tribe to join the Afghan National Army with pressure from his father and brother to start a family.
“Three Songs for Benazir,” which is set to stream on the service in 2022, is qualified for Academy Award consideration in the documentary short category.
The directing duo, who are married and split their time between California and Afghanistan, filmed the short during a four-year period.
“We’re thrilled to add ‘Three Songs for Benazir’ to our Original Documentary Shorts slate,” says Chloe Gbai, Netflix manager, original documentaries. “It’s a poignant love story from Afghanistan that will tug at viewer’s heartstrings.”
The doc has screened at numerous film festivals in the U.S. and internationally. In April, “Three Songs for Benazir” won the jury award for best short at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
“We are honored to partner with Netflix to bring ‘Three Songs for Benazir’ to a global audience,” Gulistan and Elizabeth Mirzaei said in a joint written statement to Variety. “Despite being bombarded with media about Afghanistan, the world often sees only a fraction of the reality and there is a poverty of imagination about the lives of real people in the region. This story about a young couple searching for their place in the world is a universal one in many ways, and we are thrilled that it will now have a global reach we could not have imagined.”
“Three Songs for Benazir” is one of four short documentaries that Netflix has qualified for Oscar consideration this year. The fellow Netflix shorts hoping for a little gold man are “Lead Me Home,” “Camp Confidential” and “Audible.”
In recent years, the short form documentary has become an increasingly competitive marketplace that was once dominated by HBO Documentary Films. Netflix along with the New York Times, the New Yorker, MTV Documentary Films, A&E, the Guardian, and ESPN are among the numerous film distributors who have begun acquiring and commission short docus, which in turn have given companies like Netflix and the New York Times a way into award season for a low cost.
Netflix took home its very first Academy Award in 2017 for Orlando von Einsiedel’s short docu “The White Helmets. The streaming service won in the category again in 2019 for Rayka Zehtabchi’s “Period. End of Sentence.”
Since 2016, Netflix has scored seven Oscar nominations in the documentary short category for the following films: “The White Helmets” (2016), “Extremis” (2016), “Heroin(e) (2017),” “Period. End of Sentence” (2018) “End Game” (2018) “Life Overtakes Me” (2019) and “A Love Song for Latasha” (2019).
“Three Songs for Benazir” is nominated for a 2022 Cinema Eye award in the outstanding nonfiction short category. Cinetic negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.