The teenager from the Ghanaian capital of Accra won the Marcello Mastroianni's Best Young Actor Award at the 2015 Venice Film Festival on Saturday for his lead role in Netflix's first original feature movie, "Beasts of No Nation."
According to the film's director Cary Fukunaga, Abraham was working as a street vendor in Accra before being randomly chosen to take part in casting workshops for the blockbuster.
"[He had] zero film experience, little education...but he became a somewhat professional actor, which was astounding to watch," the Emmy award-winning director was quoted saying by Business Insider
Abraham plays Agu, a young boy whose world is torn apart when he is recruited as a child soldier in the civil war raging through an unnamed West African country.
Idris Elba, the Golden Globe-winning star of "Luther" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" plays the ruthless warlord who orders him into becoming a young killer.
"We were playing football on our school field when a white man came and said, "We need some boys for a movie"," Abraham told a press conference
in Venice. "We went to a TV station in Ghana for an audition and...I was cast."
"He was playing hooky from school," added Fukunaga.
Based on the 2005 novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, the film has wowed critics at Venice and Toronto Film Festivals and already been tipped for an Oscar.
Netflix ruffled feathers this spring when it announced that the movie will premiere online at the same time as in cinemas, leading major U.S. movie theater chains to reject it. Traditionally, films have to wait 90 days after cinema screenings to be released online.
"Beasts of No Nation" becomes available on Netflix and selected cinemas on October 16.