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Vol. LXII, No. 1
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

TWO EXPERTS IN THE ART OF AFGHAN KITE FLYING: Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi, right) discusses their latest episode of kite flying with his best friend and teammate Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada). In Afghanistan kite flying is a cutthroat competitive sport in which pairs of kite flyers try to bring down the other teams’ kites by flying them into each other or by having their kites slice the other kites’ strings.

The Kite Runner: Afghani Best Seller Adapted as Story of Two Friends

Kam Williams

Published by Khaled Hosseini in 2003, The Kite Runner is an endearing account of the childhood friendship of two young Afghani boys that unfolds against the backdrop of their country’s political turmoil, starting from the fall of the monarchy, to the war with the U.S.S.R., and ending with the rise of the Taliban. Brought to the screen by German director Marc Foster (Monster’s Ball), the book has been adapted as a relatively simplistic, sanitized tale of camaraderie and betrayal that leads to regret and, ultimately, a chance at redemption.

The film is set mostly in Kabul, but opens in present day San Francisco which is where we meet Amir (played as an adult by Khalid Abdalla), a recently published author who is about to return to his native Afghanistan. The movie then immediately flashes back to 1978 where an adolescent Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) is flying kites with his playmate Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), who is the son of his father’s live-in servant.

The carefree children are inseparable playmates who forge a powerful bond of friendship with each other despite their class differences. However, this changes abruptly the day that Hassan is beaten and raped by a gang of older bullies.

The traumatic incident was secretly witnessed by Amir who was too afraid to try to save his friend from his tormentors or even to run for help. That event permanently alters the boys’ relationship, and before Amir is mature enough to explain his inappropriate response to Hassan’s traumatic event, or to analyze and understand his own inappropriate behavior, he is whisked off by his father to the United States to escape the impending Soviet invasion.

Half a world away, Amir is busy learning how to live in America and doesn’t have time to think much about the fate of Hassan back in Afghanistan. But as his guilt increases over the next 20 years, he becomes haunted by his past betrayal and yearns for a chance to find his friend and beg him to forgive him.

That, in a nutshell is the story of The Kite Runner, a movie which, unfortunately, fails to engage the audience on a visceral level in spite of its earnest endeavor to tug on one’s heartstrings. Other than the colorful depiction of the faux Afghani settings (actually shot in China), there’s not much to get excited about here.

The screenplay fairly faithfully follows the source material’s essential plot points. However, by the end of the film the resolution comes off as an anticlimactic afterthought rather than the expected moving moment. Even a surprising rabbit that is pulled out of the hat towards the end is disappointing.

Read the novel. Or better yet, go fly a kite!

Fair (1.5 stars). Rated PG-13 for violence, brief profanity, child rape, and mature themes. In Dari, Pashtu, Urdu, Russian, and English with subtitles. Running time: 128 minutes. Studio: Paramount Vantage.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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