“Friends show their love - in times of trouble, not in happiness” - Euripides
At the weekend we watched a film of a book we had read in the past, and about which I blogged. It is the novel “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, who was born in 1965 in Kabul, the Afghani capital. His father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and History at a large high school in Kabul. They relocated to Paris in 1976 but when they were ready to return to Kabul in 1980, Afghanistan had witnessed a bloody communist coup and the invasion of the Soviet army.
The 2007 Marc Forster movie “The Kite Runner” starring Khalid Abdalla, Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada and Atossa Leoni is a good adaptation of the novel, with an excellent screenplay by David Benioff. The film has an authentic atmosphere and the recreation of Kabul before and after the Soviet invasion is convincing and compelling. Director Mark Forster wanted to make the film as authentic as possible and insisted on filming Afghani characters speaking in Dari (with English subtitles). Iran and Afghanistan share a language (called Farsi in Iran and Dari in Afghanistan – which is essentially the same language, but the accent is very different). The scenes shot in California are in English mainly.
The action of most of the film takes place in Afghanistan, with later scenes in the USA. In the 1970’s in Afghanistan, the Pashtun boy Amir and the Hazara boy Hassan, are friends. Hassan is the most loyal friend of the two, but Hassan is also the son of Amir’s Hazara servant Ali. The two boys are raised together in Amir’s father’s house, playing and flying kites competitively on the streets of a peaceful Kabul. Amir feels that his father blames him for the death of his mother during his birth, and also that his father loves and prefers Hassan to him. This is a misconception of Amir’s, as his father is fair and good-hearted. By contrast, Amir feels a great respect for his father's best friend Rahim Khan, who supports his intention to become a writer.
After Amir wins a competition of kite flying, Hassan runs to bring a kite to Amir, but he is beaten and raped by the brutal older boy, Assef. Amir witness the assault but does nothing to help the loyal Hassan. This episode convinces Amir that he must get rid of Hassan and on the day after his birthday party, Amir hides his new watch in Hassan’s bed to frame the boy as a thief and force his father to fire Ali. His plan is successful insofar as Ali resigns and leaves with Hassan, but Kabul is about to become a very different place, and Amir and his father must leave Afghanistan as refugees, fleeing to the USA. Amir’s life in California is upset when Rahim Khan makes a startling revelation and implores Amir to return to Afghanistan in order to make good former wrongs.
The film is acted extremely well and many of the Afghani players are not professional actors, but nevertheless act very well, giving the film authenticity and in parts an almost documentary-like feel. Although the film is mainly shot in China, Kabul is recreated realistically and the vivid descriptions in the novel have been transferred well to the screen. Although the 128 minutes of the film leave out details in the novel (which is inevitable), the film retains the immediacy and poignancy of the book, making for a very engaging and emotionally compelling movie.
The main theme of the film is Amir’s redemption. Amir as a child commits an act that is cowardly and atrocious, but as a man he redeems himself with courage and daring, putting his own life at risk in order to correct some of the errors of the past. Amir’s father who had his own demons to fight, did teach Amir how to behave honourably, and Amir’s matured character draws upon his father’s sense of justice and fairness in order to act with determination and bravery.
The film was quite controversial when it was released because of two reasons – one being a concern about the child actors and the possible psychological damage that may have been wrought during the making of the film and, two about the politics of Afghanistan and the repercussions that it may have had with the Taliban, who are depicted as soulless monsters in the film. The child actors are wonderful and the even the scene of violence depicted is done sensitively and handled with great aplomb by the director. In terms of the depiction of the Taliban, I think watching the news and seeing documentaries about Afghanistan is infinitely more shocking and gives an even more stark picture of the changes in this country over the last thirty years or so…
We recommend this film highly and of course if you can read the novel, it is well worth reading.