Saturday, December 22, 2007

"The Kite Runner"

"The Kite Runner," is an important film because it puts a human face and historical context on what happened in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, when many Americans think of Afghanistan, we think of Al-Qaida, terrorism and 9/11. "The Kite Runner," does much to humanize the conflict and break those stereotypes.

"The Kite Runner," starts out with an exhilarating sequence of kite flying showing off the city of Kabul in 1978 before the Russians and the Taliban wrecked it. The sky is filled with dancing, dueling kites. Two of the kite flyers are Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) and Amir's loyal friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), the son of the family's longtime servant Ali. They cut other kites' strings with their own kite and then run to retrieve them. Hassan is the best kite runner in neighborhood, accurately predicting where the kite will land. But it also lands him in trouble as jealous bullies taunt him for being a "Hazara." This bullying foreshadows Pashtun/Hazara tribal tensions.

The theme of the changing times is expressed by Amir's father, Baba (played with commanding dignity by Homayoun Ershadi) - a somewhat westernized intellectual. "The Mullahs want to rule our souls and the communists tell us we don't have any," Baba laments. Baba has the strength of his convictions in contrast with his son, Amir, who doesn't seem to stand for anything. Amir overhears his father complain that there seems to be something missing in the boy when his friend Hassan must stick up for him because he won't. "A boy who won't stick up for himself won't stand for anything." I wanted to love, "The Kite Runner," but I was never entirely emotionally invested in the story. I think it is because the main character, Amir, wasn't. The kite contest was one way Amir could prove himself to his father. But he seemed disengaged even when he won. Then the bullies attack his friend and he doesn't stick up for him and eventually betrays him.

When the Russians invade the country, the family is forced to escape to America leaving his friend behind. After graduating community college, Amir aspires to be a writer. For a writer, he isn't very introspective. He never delves into the choices he made. Perhaps he writes about his lost childhood in his novel. (His love interest says that it made her cry.) But the director never lets us in on that. Even their marriage seems superficial. The marriage should raise the stakes when Amir must return to Afghanistan, but it doesn't work because he hasn't invested anything in it.

His father's friend calls from Afghanistan and he offers Amir, "A way to be good again," by going home. He has a chance to redeem himself by saving his friend's son. Back in Afghanistan, he seems like a tourist during the most important event of his life. The climactic moment feels like it's from another film -- an action film. By the end he has finally learned to stick up for the son of the friend he betrayed in a very satisfying scene.

Despite it's flaws, "The Kite Runner" has an important theme of guilt and redemption. The movie succeeds in putting a human face on what happened in Afghanistan, creating more understanding. A worthy goal.

OSCAR UPDATE: Nominated for Best Original Score.

Movie Blessings and Merry Christmas!
Jana Segal
Reel Inspiration

Roger Ebert was much more emotionally involved in the film. I really respect his opinion. So, to be fair, I've included a link to his review.

(Parental warning: Because of violent sexual content, this is not suitable for children.)

For an even greater understanding of the historical context of our involvement with Afghanistan, check out, Charlie Wilson's War.

Funny. When I first saw the trailer I thought, "Wow! Look at Julia Roberts hair!" Actually, I thought, "Wow! Look at what one flawed man can do!" Then I found out that he had actually arranged for us to supply weapons to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets during the Cold War. (So that's how they got all those weapons!)

It is a drama based on Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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