Tuesday, April 15, 2008

THE KITE RUNNER: It's Worth At Least An Oscar!

Cast: Khalid Abdalla, Homayon Ershadi, Zekeria Ebrahimi, Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada, Shaun Toub and Nabi
Director: Marc Forster
Time: 120 mins
Rating: * * * * (out of 4)

Pic: Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada and Zekeria Ebrahimi

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? This is the movie that should have won the Best Film of 2007 award! Like Ian McEwan's "Atonement", this one is also adapted from a bestseller - by Khaled Hosseini. However, while both deal with a person's bid to seek redemption for a sin committed in childhood, "The Kite Runner" is more powerful in terms of emotional and spiritual depth. It is a more satisfying movie than the Oscar-winning film, "No Country For Old Men".

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The story begins in Kabul in 1978 before the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Despite their class differences, Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) are childhood buddies. Amir is the son of Baba (Homayon Ershadi), a rich landowner, while Hassan is the son of the family servant, Ali (Nabi Tanha). The boys spend their free time flying kites and 'duelling' with the other kite-flyers, trying to cut other kite strings with their own. Soon, Hassan makes a name for himself as the best 'kite runner' in the neighbourhood. This attracts the jealousy of a local bully who sexually attacks Hassan - an act that is witnessed by Amir. Later, Amir seeks to relieve his guilt not by seeking forgiveness from his friend but by getting Hassan and Ali dismissed from his father's service.

Some 20 years later, Amir (now played by Khalid Abdalla) is living in California with his wife, Soraya (Atossa Leoni). Amir receives a call from an old friend, Rahim Kahn (Shaun Toub), who urges him to return to Afghanistan to help his friend Hassan. When he arrives in war-torn Kabul, Amir is forced to undertake a risky mission as a way of repaying his debt to Hassan, who never once blamed Amir for turning his back on him.

HITS & MISSES: One of the greatest strengths of the movie is absorbing tale of a friendship gone wrong. For this, we must credit Ebrahimi and Mahmidzada for their performances. Our hearts, especially, go out to the mounful-looking Mahmidzada as a boy who stands up for his rights against great odds. (The boy has been relocated from Afghanistan by the producers for fear of reprisals for appearing in the rape scene).

Another plus for the engaging simplicity in Forster's adaptation of the book - something that was missing in director Joe Wright's "Atonement". The depiction of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule is realistic and horrifying - and this is juxtaposed against the fun and excitement of kite-flying in the days before Taliban rule. And then, there's the story of Amir's atonement, which should play as a triumph for the human heart. "Kite Runner" is mostly film in English, with a few scenes in a Farsi dialect.

THE LOWDOWN: For me, as well as many who have caught the movie, "Kite Runner" should have won an Oscar. I close with a quote from the adult Hassan: "I dream that my son will grow up to be a good person, a free person. I dream that someday (he) will return to revisit the land of our childhood. I dream that flowers will bloom in the streets again... and kites will fly in the skies!"


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