A couple of years after the 9/11 attacks, there was a historical fiction novel published which was entitled The Kite Runner. Since the media had demonized the middle east so much after 9/11, many people flocked to the book expecting some kind of behind the scenes look at what Afghanistan was really like. I heard lots about The Kite Runner but never got around to actually reading it. In 2007 a film was made based on the 2005 best seller.
During the 1970's in Afghanistan, the two children, Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) were inseparable. Their long days under azure Kabul skies were often spent getting into innocent mischief or preparing for the highly anticipated kite-fighting tournament. When the day of the tournament arrives, however, a glorious victory is quickly offset by a fearful act of betrayal. Not long after that fateful day, the Soviet military invades Kabul and Amir escapes to America, leaving his old friend behind just as the ominous possibility of war becomes a reality. Two decades later, Amir (Khalid Abdalla) returns to Afghanistan to find his beloved homeland has now fallen under the iron-fisted rule of the Taliban. Still, all hope for redemption hasn't been lost just yet, because now that Amir stands face to face with the irrepressible secrets that he struggled so vigilantly to bury, he will receive one last chance to make peace with the past, and lay the groundwork for a brighter future.
The Kite Runner is an interesting movie in that it relies on the story and characters to sell itself to the audience. There are no big name American actors, no flashy special effects, and not even popular movie genre to draw audiences in. It's just pure story. On top of that, it puts very human faces and historical context on the tragic images of war in Afghanistan. While it's not the purpose of The Kite Runner, it does show us that the people there are not evil, but simply peaceful people who are set upon by a violent Islamic fundamentalist political movement.
The first half of the movie revolves around Amir and Hassan as children. The two young actors are very convincing and give us a marvelous acting display. Much of the film is spoken in Dari, which is an Afghan dialect of Farsi, or Persian. So without the subtitles non-Dari speakers would have difficulty being able to follow with the finer story points. However, the acting is so well done that I'm sure anyone can grasp the larger concepts by reading the actors expressions. I was particularly impressed with Homayoun Ershadi, who played Amir's father Agha Sahib. He has such a powerful presence, a face that seems deeply good; it is difficult to imagine his face reflecting unkind feelings.
Something I'd hear about a whole lot after the book's release was the rape scene. There is an older boy who picks on young Amir and Hassan in the first part of the movie. He is a violent young man, a bully, a racist, and a sociopath. The older boy rapes Hassan, and drives an emotional wedge between Hassan and Amir. This could have been a visually explicit part of the film, but it is thankfully very tame; there is no nudity and the sexual aspect is only suggested very briefly at the end of the scene. The Kite Runner is PG-13, and is in fact fairly tame visually for its rating. While rape is a horrific thing, I don't feel that the scene should deter you from seeing The Kite Runner. Incidentally, Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada who played Hassan, greatly feared Afghan reprisal for appearing in a rape scene and the film's producers have helped to relocate him.
The Kite Runner is a pretty good movie that touches on some serious issues; friendship, betrayal, war, peace, tradition, truth, lies, redemption, and love. It's a good story that doesn't rely on flashy imagery or big name actors to sell itself. The actors are incredible, the story is optimistic in spite of moments of bleak pessimism. There are several opportunities for the movie to become very gruesome or visually explicit but it doesn't, and I'm thankful for that. I didn't feel as moved by it as the movie seems to hope that I would be, but it's still a good film, and I think it's worth the price of renting.