The Kite Runner *** (out of ****)

Director: Marc Foster
Writer: David Benioff based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Cast: Khalid Abdalla, Zekiria Ebrahimi, Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada, Homayoun Ershadi, Nabi Tanha, Salam Yusofzai, Elham Ehsas
Rating: R (violence, sexual content, language)
Running Time: 122 min
Release Date: 12/14/2007

Amir (Khalid Abdalla), an immigrant from Afghanistan, and his wife are now living in San Francisco, has just received a package containing several copies of his recently published novel. He receives a phone call from Pakistan concerning the son of his childhood friend. This brings back memories of how he got to where he is now (Year 2000).

This story begins before the 1978 Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. Young Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) and his best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) enjoy flying kites. Hassan was the son of Amir’s father’s servant. Amir was from an affluent family and his father, Baba (Homayoun Ershadi), is some sort of intellectual who has equal disdain for both the fundamentalist Muslims and the communists. It seems to me that Amir must not be very popular if he hangs with his servant’s son rather then boys of his own social class.

The boys play a game where they fight each other by trying to cut each others kite strings. It seems that you would be more likely to just get the strings tangled and have the kites crashing to the ground. But, Amir was good at this and his father bought him a new kite for the big competition. Amir was able to best his father’s record of cutting 14 kites before his was cut. Hassan was his runner who had a knack for predicting where the kite would land. Unfortunately for him some “future Taliban” were waiting when recovered Amir’s new kite. The older boy’s demanded the kite and when Hassan refused to give it to them, he was attacked and raped.

Amir was following behind Hassan and witnessed the attack. He is troubled both by what had happened and by the fact that he didn’t do anything about it. This ended the friendship between Amir and Hassan. Amir was raked with feelings of guilt and disgust at his former best friend. Baba was confused and never found out why Amir didn’t want to play with Hassan anymore.

However, the whole nation of Afghanistan was about to have an analogous experience to Hassan’s when the Soviet’s invaded. Baba and Amir escaped to Pakistan since Baba was a known anti-communist. Eventually they immigrated to the U.S. and lived in California. Amir eventually went to college, married a former Afghan general’s daughter, and became a best selling author. This brings us to the second part of the story which occurs after the phone call and concerns Amir returning to pre-U.S. invasion Afghanistan.

It is revealed that Hassan was in fact Amir’s half brother due to an affair that Baba had with his servant’s wife. The Taliban are running a savage regime in the more than a decade since the Soviet withdrawal. They took Hassan and his wife from their house and shot them in the street. Hassan’s son was taken to an orphanage from which Amir hopes to rescue him. Amir enters Afghanistan wearing a fake beard in search of the boy. However, when Amir finds the orphanage, he is too late as the local Taliban leader had taken the boy. Yes, it the same guy who had raped Hassan years earlier. It seems that young boys remained his preference. There is a confrontation that Amir avoided in his youth when he did nothing when Hassan had been victimized.

The Kite Runner gives some useful insights into the culture of Afghanistan where we are now engaged in a struggle with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It is a vivid demonstration of the devastation that a generation of warfare has wrought. Finally, it provides a clear warning to boys and donkeys about the Taliban!

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