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The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Words For The Kite Runner; Images from The Kite Runner; Public Service Announcement with Khaled Hosseini; Theatrical trailer.

KHALED Hosseini’s beloved but controversial novel The Kite Runner was never going to be an easy piece of work to adapt for the big screen, so full praise must go to Marc Forster for making such a good job of it.

At its core, the book is a tale of friendship, heroism and regret that unfolds against the harsh backdrop of Afghanistan. But it’s also renowned for a rape scene that prompted accusations from some that it could strain relations between certain factions in the country.

In film form, the same scene has now prompted the child actors at the centre of the story to be removed from the country for fear of reprisals. Yet in truth, it’s sensitively handled and not sensationalised in any way and it would be a shame if the notoriety surrounding it dissuaded people from seeing it.

The film begins in Kabul in 1978 as talented young kite fighter Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) wins the local competition with the help of his loyal best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), a kite runner and Hazara, whose presence antagonises the dominant Pashtuns in the region.

In the aftermath of the competition, however, Amir witnesses a brutal attack on Hassan that leaves his friend humiliated, and a rift develops between them based around Amir’s inability to deal with its repercussions or his own decision not to try and prevent it.

The two boys subsequently become separated when Amir is forced to flee with his father (Homayoun Ershadi) to San Francisco following the Soviet invasion. Twenty two years later, Amir (now played by Khalid Abdalla) gets a call from Hassan’s father that prompts him to revisit Afghanistan, now occupied by the Taliban, in order to undertake a dangerous personal mission that might bring about some form of redemption.

Forster’s film functions as a moving account of friendship and responsibility that unfolds against the provocative backdrop of Afghanistan during a turbulent time in its history. But it’s given extra authenticity by the director’s determination to employ ordinary Afghans in many of the key roles and to shoot on location as closely as possible (the Chinese-Afghan border region is used to breathtaking effect).

Zekiria Ebrahimi and Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada are excellent in the challenging roles of the young Amir and Hassan, while Khalid Abdalla (last seen playing the lead terrorist in Paul Greengrass’ United 93) brings a tremendous amount of depth and humility to the older, guilt-wracked Amir. His subsequent journey back to Afghanistan is full of peril and provides some harrowing truths, but is expertly chronicled by both director and star to create an experience for the audience that is both extremely tense and tear-jerkingly poignant.

Further mention should also go to Homayoun Ershadi for his excellent portrayal of Amir’s devoted father, who has a key part to play in the destinies of both children. It’s a sensitive performance that adds to the emotional depth of the overall experience.

Forster and screenwriter David Benioff also provide plenty of insights into Afghan culture that help to create a greater understanding of the issues involved without ever becoming judgemental, and the kite running itself is both fascinating and exciting.

The Kite Runner might struggle to find as wide an audience as it deserves given the nature of its themes but anyone who sees it will be rewarded with an intelligent, thought-provoking and deeply involving experience that touches the heart as much as it shocks.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 8mins
UK DVD Release Date: June 2, 2008