Riders on the Storm

Riders on the Storm

Austria | 2023 | 101 min. | Jason Motlagh, Mark Oltmanns

When U.S. forces pull out of Afghanistan and the Taliban regains control, two famed horsemen and champions of buzkashi—the national sport—must go into hiding and find a way out of their country before they suffer the same fate as their assassinated uncle.

Directors Jason Motlagh and Mark Oltmanns, Subjects Khaiber Akbarzada and Gulbuddin Mulakhil, and Executive Producer Rocky Collins scheduled to attend.

Buzkashi, which translates to "goat grabbing" in Persian and has foundations in theft between nomadic tribes, is a centuries-old sport played across much of Central Asia. In this fierce game, two teams of horse-mounted players try to gain control of a goat or calf carcass so they can drop it into a circle to score points. It's as visceral as it sounds, and its long history has led to it becoming the most popular sport in Afghanistan even after a temporary ban during Taliban rule. Jason Motlagh and Mark Ottmann's documentary follows one of these players, Khaiber Akbarzada, largely considered among the best players in the country. He's training to compete in the National Championship of Buzkashi, which could catapult him into the upper echelons of fame. Unfortunately, this could prove to be more of a curse: his uncle, also a buzkashi legend, was assassinated during the Civil War, and with the Taliban once again gaining control, that might be enough to deem him a threat. With pulse-pounding footage from within the games, Motlagh and Ottmann chronicle how an inspirational sports story can quickly turn into a harrowing war zone, where no decision is easy and giving up your dreams might be the only way to keep yourself (and your loved ones) safe.

Devan Suber

  • Director: Jason Motlagh, Mark Oltmanns
  • Principal Cast: Khaiber Akbarzada, Gulbuddin "Kalakov" Mulakhil, Gulbuddin Tashkargani, Faisal Hassan
  • Country: Austria
  • Year: 2023
  • Running Time: 101 min.
  • Producer: Jason Motlagh, Mark Oltmanns
  • Cinematographers: Mark Oltmanns
  • Editors: Christina Stiles
  • Music: William Ryan Fritch
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Filmography: Debut Feature Film
  • Language: Farsi, Pashto
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • International Sales: MetFilm Sales