FREMONT -- Hollywood comes to Little Kabul.
Perhaps that's how a golden age movie exec would have hyped a casting call Sunday in Fremont, where a film with a A-list stars and a Bay Area-raised director will look to cast an Afghan-American in its lead role.
"The Fixer" will feature box-office star James Franco and Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, but its producers still must cast Osman, an Afghan journalist who leaves his war-torn country to become a crime reporter in a small, mysterious Northern California town.
That search has led the production to Fremont, home to the nation's largest Afghan-American community. Finding the right actor is paramount, the filmmakers say, as they want their story to capture the Afghan-American experience with authenticity and integrity.
An Afghan man in his late 20s or early 30s would be the ideal candidate, and professional acting experience is not required, said producer Caroline von Kuhn.
"The whole film is built around this character's journey, seen through his eyes and from his perspective," von Kuhn said. "The idea of casting an Afghan-American is important, and we want to exhaust that search."
To reach that goal, the production has partnered with the Afghan Coalition, a Fremont nonprofit group that helps Afghan immigrants and will host the casting call.
"I'm a big proponent of having an Afghan play an Afghan because that proper representation is the best way to own your own image, via the media" said Aisha Wahab, an Afghan Coalition board member and the production's Fremont contact. "We're often portrayed in TV and movies as very negative people, but we know that's not true."
Filmmaker Ian Olds, raised in Sonoma County, will direct the independent, small-budget movie set in a fictional community based partly on his hometown, Sebastopol, and its region.
The script was inspired by harrowing real-life events Olds witnessed while making "The Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi," his Emmy-nominated documentary about the war in Afghanistan. A "fixer" there is someone hired by foreign journalists to translate languages and gain access for their stories.
That experience helped Olds shape the Osman character, which he created after Afghan friends said they were tired of being pitied in movies that portrayed them as victims of combat.
"To repeatedly tell the stories of Afghans through the lens of war and its trauma is too reductive; it cheapens humanity and denies the fullness of living," Olds wrote on the film's website. "We wanted to create ... our main character as a full, conflicted human being and not simply as a symbolic victim of history."
Olds' past screen successes include "Occupation: Dreamland," an Iraq War documentary that won an Independent Spirit Award in 2005, and a 14-minute short, "Bomb," which screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. He since has collaborated on several projects with the Palo Alto-raised Franco, editing two of the actor's films.
The sensitivity of Olds' work has earned the trust of East Bay Afghan-Americans, spurring local interest in the project, Wahab said. "I'm getting a lot of emails (from Afghan men), and a lot of women are asking if there's a role for females, too," she said.
The casting call will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Afghan Coalition, located in the Fremont Family Resource Center, 39155 Liberty Street. Prospective actors should bring a résumé detailing their acting experience and a current photograph -- a 3-by-5-inch color photo is best, the film's producers said. Those interested but unable to attend can email producers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
It will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Afghan Coalition, located in the Fremont Family Resource Center, 39155 Liberty St., Fremont. Prospective actors should bring a résumé detailing acting experience and a current photograph.