The Kite Runner (film)
|The Kite Runner|
American theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Marc Forster|
|Produced by||Walter Parkes
|Screenplay by||David Benioff|
|Based on||The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada
|Music by||Alberto Iglesias|
|Edited by||Matt Chesse|
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures|
The Kite Runner is a 2007 American drama film directed by Marc Forster based on the novel of the same name by Khaled Hosseini. It tells the story of Amir, a well-to-do boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who is tormented by the guilt of abandoning his friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet military intervention, the mass exodus of Afghan refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the Taliban regime.
Though most of the film is set in Afghanistan, these parts were mostly shot in Kashgar, China, due to the dangers of filming in Afghanistan at the time. The majority of the film's dialogue is in Dari, with the remainder spoken in English. The child actors are native speakers, but several adult actors had to learn Dari. Filming wrapped up on December 21, 2006, and the film was expected to be released on November 2, 2007. However, after concern for the safety of the young actors in the film due to fears of violent reprisals to the sexual nature of some scenes in which they appear, its release date was pushed back six weeks to December 14, 2007. The Kite Runner was released on DVD on March 25, 2008.
Made on a budget of $20 million, the film earned $73.2 million worldwide, making it a box office success. The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. The film's score by Alberto Iglesias was nominated for Best Original Score at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
Setting: San Francisco, 2000
The film opens with an Afghan-American writer, Amir Qadiri (Khalid Abdalla), and his wife, Soraya (Atossa Leoni), who are watching children flying kites at a bayside park. When they arrive home, Amir finds waiting for him packages of his new novel, A Season for Ashes, which has just been published. Soraya refers to the book as Amir’s “baby,” hinting at the couple’s inability to have a child of their own.
Amir then receives an unexpected call from an old friend of his father’s, Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub), who is living in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Flashback: Kabul, 1978-1979
Ten-year-old Amir (played as a child by Zekeria Ebrahimi) is the son of a wealthy man (Homayoun Ershadi), known locally by the honorific title “Agha Sahib”. (Amir refers to him as “Baba,” meaning “father.”) Baba, a philanthropist and iconoclast, is a Pashtun living in Kabul. Amir’s best friend is Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmizada), who is the son of the Agha Sahib’s Hazara servant, Ali (Nabi Tanha).
Amir participates in the sport of kite fighting, popular among the boys of Kabul. Two kite flyers compete to cut each other’s kite strings, the defeated kite becoming the prize of the winner. Hassan serves as Amir’s spool-holder and “kite runner,” who retrieves the defeated kite. Hassan has the ability to determine where the loose kite will land without watching its course through the air. Hassan has deadly aim with his slingshot, and one day on Hassan’s birthday, Amir gives Hassan a slingshot made in America. Hassan pledges his loyalty to Amir, swearing that he would eat dirt if Amir so asked.
Amir also is a writer of stories, and he often reads his own stories or published stories to the illiterate Hassan. Hassan particularly likes to hear the story of Rostam and Sohrab from the Persian epic Shahnameh. Baba dislikes his son’s timid ways, and complains to his friend and business associate Rahim Khan that Amir doesn’t stand up for himself, letting Hassan fight his battles for him.
Amir overhears this conversation and Rahim Khan goes to Amir’s room to assure him that his father loves him. Amir says that he believes that his father resents him because Amir’s mother died in childbirth. Rahim Khan also encourages Amir to keep writing.
Amir and Hassan are often bullied by an older Pashtun boy, Assef (Elham Ehsas) and Assef’s two friends, who harbor ethnic hatred against Hazaras. Assef taunts Amir by saying that Amir has no friends but one that he pays to be his friend, Hassan. And Assef taunts Hassan by saying that Amir does not treat him as a true friend. Cornered one day by the three boys, Hassan protects Amir by threatening Assef with his slingshot. The bullies flee, but Assef promises revenge.
One day Amir enters the city-wide kite-fighting contest, and his father—who was a champion in his own youth—watches proudly from a balcony, accompanied by Rahim Khan, as Amir breaks his father’s record of 12 “kills.”
Hassan sprints off to “run” the last defeated kite and he is gone for some time. Eventually, Amir finds Hassan trapped in a dead-end by Assef and his two goons. Assef demands the kite as payment for letting Hassan go free, but Hassan refuses, asserting that the kite belongs to Amir. Amir watches the scene while concealed, too afraid to intervene. Assef then beats and anally rapes Hassan as his friends hold the boy down.
Amir flees from the scene, and later, when Hassan emerges, dripping blood, Amir pretends not to know what has occurred. Over the next few weeks, Amir, wracked with guilt, avoids Hassan, who spends all his free time in bed. Ali and Baba try to find out whether something has happened, but Amir pleads ignorance.
One day, Amir walks to a tree underneath which Amir often read stories to Hassan, and finds Hassan teaching himself to read. Amir accuses Hassan of cowardice, and throws pomegranates at him, daring Hassan to strike him. Hassan picks up a pomegranate and smashes it into his own face. Later, Amir asks his father whether he would consider replacing his servants Ali and Hassan. Baba angrily rebukes Amir, declaring that Ali has worked for the family for 40 years and that Ali and Hassan will always stay with them.
Baba throws a massive party for Amir’s birthday, but Amir is unable to enjoy it, watching Hassan serve the guests. Assef attends with his father, and Amir meekly accepts Assef’s gift and well-wishes. Rahim Khan, who presents Amir with a blank book for his stories, senses something is wrong and tells Amir that Amir can tell him anything.
The next day, Amir plants his wristwatch, a birthday present from his father, under Hassan’s pillow, and tells the Agha Sahib that Hassan has stolen it. When confronted by Baba, Hassan falsely confesses to stealing it. The Agha Sahib forgives him, but Ali lets him know that he and Hassan can no longer work for him, and, much to Baba's distress, they pack their belongings and leave.
In June 1979, the Soviet Union militarily intervenes. Baba is disliked by the Soviets for his frequent denunciation of the PDPA since the Saur Revolution. He also drinks alcohol and smokes cigarettes and denounces the mullahs: The Mullahs want to rule our souls... and the Communists tell us we don't have any. He leaves his house in the care of Rahim Khan and flees to Pakistan with Amir.
They travel by truck with other refugees and, along the way, they are stopped by a Soviet Army private, who demands sex with a young wife and mother who is among the refugees. Baba intervenes, daring the soldier to shoot him, but the situation is defused when the soldier’s major appears on the scene.
Flash Forward: Fremont, California, 1988
Baba runs a service station and operates a stall at a weekly flea market. Amir earns a degree at a local community college and, Baba, though disappointed that Amir wants to be a writer rather than a physician, says that Amir can earn money by working with him.
One day at the flea market, Amir’s father introduces him to General Taheri (Abdul Khadir Farookh), another Pashtun and a former officer in the Afghan army. Amir is smitten by Taheri’s daughter, Soraya, but the very traditional Taheri, who has little regard for fiction writers, discourages his advances.
Soon after, Baba is diagnosed with lung cancer, and he becomes gravely ill. General Taheri and his family visit him at the hospital and Amir and Soraya manage to convey their interest in each other. Baba refuses to stay at the hospital and wishes to live his last days at home. After Amir brings him home, he asks his father to ask General Taheri for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Taheri agrees, but Amir’s father tells him that Soraya wants to speak with him.
On a chaperoned stroll, Soraya reveals that when the Taheris were living in Virginia, she ran away with a Pathan man and lived with him until her father came to retrieve her. Soon after, the Taheris moved to California to flee the gossip surrounding them. Amir is shocked, but he says that he still wants to be married.
Amir and Soraya are married, and, soon after, Amir’s father dies.
Flash Forward, 2000
Rahim Khan persuades Amir to visit him in Pakistan, and tells him that the situation is bad, but Amir has an opportunity to “be good again.”
Amir cancels his book tour and goes to Peshawar. Rahim Khan tells Amir that he is dying, but that is not the real reason that he has asked Amir to come. Rahim Khan then tells Amir what happened after he and his father fled Afghanistan.
Rahim Khan managed the house, but a series of caretakers didn’t work out. He then located Hassan and persuaded him to return with his wife and their son to look after the house. Rahim Khan himself had to flee to Pakistan when his own health deteriorated and the Taliban took over power after the civil war from 1992 to 1996.
One day the Taliban appeared at the house and demanded that Hassan vacate the premises, declaring that no Hazara could be in legitimate possession of the house. Hassan refused to surrender the house and the Taliban executed him in the street, and also shot his wife. Hassan’s son, Sohrab, was taken to an orphanage.
Rahim Khan urges Amir to return to Kabul to find Sohrab and give him a letter written by Hassan, who had taught himself to read and write. Amir resists until Rahim Khan reveals that Hassan was not really Ali’s biological son. Rahim Khan says that Amir’s father had had an affair with Ali’s wife and was the true biological father of Hassan.
Amir agrees to go to Kabul, accompanied by a driver, Farid (Saïd Taghmaoui), who helps him don a disguise and a fake beard and negotiate the Taliban-controlled city.
Amir and Farid go to the orphanage where Sohrab was taken and learn that Sohrab has been given away to a donor, a Taliban official, who occasionally takes away young girls or boys. They are told that they can meet the Taliban official at a football match. Amir and Farid attend the match, where they witness the Taliban stoning adulterers at half-time. Amir manages to get an appointment to see the Taliban official.
After he arrives at the official’s house, he is surprised to find that the assistant of the Taliban official he is looking for is actually Assef, the former bully (played now by Abdul Salam Yusoufzai), who recognizes Amir immediately even with the false beard.
Assef presents Sohrab as his dance boy. Assef agrees to let Sohrab go, but, similar to the way he had previously told Hassan that "nothing is free," he begins to beat Amir. Assef begins pummeling Amir, but in the confusion, Sohrab is able to pull out his slingshot, the same slingshot that Amir had given to Hassan when they were boys, and shoots Assef in the eye.
Sohrab and an injured Amir manage to escape through a window as Assef yells for help and orders their deaths. But the two get to Farid’s car and they escape.
When they get back to Peshawar, they find that Rahim Khan has disappeared, but he has left a letter for Amir. The next morning, Sohrab has disappeared. Amir desperately searches for Sohrab in the city, ending up following a boy to a mosque. Amir fails to find Sohrab and fearing he has lost the boy, prays at the mosque. When he returns to Rahim's apartment, Amir finds Sohrab waiting for him in the stairway. Sohrab reveals that Assef would rape him before morning prayers and that he didn't want [Assef] to get [him] anymore."
Back in San Francisco, Amir introduces Sohrab to Soraya, and they welcome him into their home. But Amir’s father-in-law, General Taheri, claiming he has to answer to their community, demands to know why they have taken in “that Hazara boy.” Amir reveals that Sohrab is his half-brother’s son and stands up to his father-in-law to demand respect for the boy.
The film ends with Amir teaching Sohrab how to fly kites and volunteering to act as Sohrab’s “runner”, and running off to fetch the kite, saying the iconic words from the novel "For you, a thousand times over...".
Director Marc Forster mentions in the DVD commentary that in the book the servant boy, Hassan, has a harelip (cleft upper lip), but that was left out of the film because it would have required two hours of makeup every day, it would have been difficult for the boy to act in the makeup, he didn't want to put the boy through it, and it wasn't essential to the script.
Author Khaled Hosseini mentions in the commentary that the name on the door "Dr. Amani" is his homage to his medical school roommate. He mentions in the documentary "Words from the Kite Runner" also on the DVD that he, himself, was a practicing physician for eight and a half years before choosing to concentrate on writing after 'The Kite Runner' book became successful.
- Khalid Abdalla as Amir Qadiri
- Zekeria Ebrahimi as Young Amir
- Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada as Young Hassan
- Homayoun Ershadi as the Agha Sahib (Baba)
- Atossa Leoni as Soraya
- Shaun Toub as Rahim Khan
- Abdul Salaam Yusoufzai as Assef
- Elham Ehsas as Young Assef
- Ali Danish Bakhtyari as Sohrab
- Saïd Taghmaoui as Farid
- Maimoona Ghezal as Jamila Taheri
- Qadir Farookh as General Taheri
- Khaled Hosseini (cameo) as Doctor in the park
- Camilo Cuervo as a Taliban Soldier
The three boys were age 11 and 12 at the time of the filming.
The film received generally positive reviews, earning a 65% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 165 reviews. On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 34 reviews. IMDb gave the film an average of 77% based on audience's ratings.
Though the child actors enjoyed making the film, they and their families expressed worries about their situation after the film's release. Regarding one scene, Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada (young Hassan) said, "I want to continue making films and be an actor but the rape scene upset me because my friends will watch it and I won't be able to go outside any more. They will think I was raped." The scene was depicted in a less harrowing manner than originally planned, with no nudity, and with the sexual aspect suggested only very briefly at the end of the scene. Even for that a body double was used. There were also fears of inter-tribal reprisals as Hassan was a Hazara and the boys who bullied and raped him were Pashtun.
For their work on the movie, Zekeria Ebrahimi (young Amir) and Ahmad Mahmidzada were initially paid $17,500 (£9,000) each, and Ali Dinesh $13,700 (£7,000). Arguments were later made that the boys were underpaid. Additionally, Ebrahimi has said "We want to study in the United States. It's a modern country and more safe than here in Kabul. If I became rich here I would be worried about security. It's dangerous to have money because of the kidnapping." Paramount relocated the three child actors playing Amir, Hassan, and Sohrab, as well as another child actor with a minor role as Omar, to the United Arab Emirates. Reportedly the studio accepted responsibility for the boys' living expenses until they reach adulthood, a cost some estimated at up to 500,000 dollars.
After four months in Dubai, Ebrahimi and his aunt returned to Kabul in March 2008. After threats to his life, Ebrahimi was forced to remain indoors, home-schooled by an uncle. He has since claimed that he wishes he had never been in the movie.
Awards and nominations
- 65th Golden Globe Awards
- Best Foreign Language Film
- Best Original Score - Motion Picture (Alberto Iglesias)
- 61st British Academy Film Awards
- Best Film Not in the English Language
- 80th Academy Awards
- Best Original Score (Alberto Iglesias)
- French, Howard W. (31 December 2006). "Where to Shoot an Epic About Afghanistan? China, Where Else?". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- AP (5 October 2007). "'Kite Runner' release delayed to protect young stars". CNN. Archived from the original on 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- "'Kite Runner' Boys Fear Afghan Backlash". Rawa News. January 14, 2007.
- "The Kite Runner - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
- "Kite Runner, The (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
- Roger Ebert (2007-12-20). "The year's ten best films and other shenanigans". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
- "Inside 'The Kite Runner' Rape Scene". Defamer. October 5, 2007.
- "The Kite Runner: real-life drama that forced four child stars into exile". Daily Telegraph. 18 December 2007.
- Dean Nelson and Barney Henderson (26 January 2009). "Slumdog child stars miss out on the movie millions". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- "Life In The Raw". The Age (Melbourne). January 6, 2008.
- "Studio to delay release of Kite Runner to protect Afghan actors". M&C Movies News. October 4, 2007.
- Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (July 2, 2008). "'Kite Runner' Star's Family Feels Exploited By Studio". All Things Considered. National Public Radio.
- "Hollywood Foreign Press Association 2008 Golden Globe Awards for the year ended December 31, 2007". goldenglobes.org. 2007-12-13. Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
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