Directed by: Marc Forster
Premise: Amir (Khalid Abdalla), an author living in America, recalls his childhood growing up in Afghanistan and his relationship to childhood friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada). As an adult, Amir returns to Taliban controlled Afghanistan to aid Hassan’s son (Ali Dinesh).
What Works: The Kite Runner is a great example of cinematic storytelling. The structure of the story is complex but it manages to maneuver around the timeline with complete coherence and use the juxtaposition of the past and the present to make the connections between plot points even stronger than if the story was told in a linear fashion. The film provides insight into the saga of Afghani people and it includes the vital component that Charlie Wilson’s War missed, the contrast in the country’s culture before and after the Soviet invasion. The Kite Runner has the distinction of being a film about the Afghani people, as it gives the culture a chance to speak for itself rather than be sifted through a Western lens, but it is also distinctly an American story, as an immigrant comes to terms with his new dual identity. This is nicely done in Amir’s relationship with Soraya (Atossa Leoni), another Middle Eastern immigrant who Amir eventually marries. The process of their courtship is sweet and walks the line between West and Middle East. There is a tradition for this kind of immigrant narrative in American storytelling and The Kite Runner, like its main characters, is a hybrid that retains the traditions and dignity of the Afghan culture while embracing Western sensibilities.
What Doesn’t: Amir’s harsh treatment of Hassan is difficult to understand at first and it threatens to make Amir so unsympathetic that the character might never recover in the eyes of the audience. Also, those who do not know anything about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan might be lost.
Bottom Line: The Kite Runner is a film that represents a cultural dialogue between the West and the Middle East and the story provides a chance for redemption, reconciliation, and new beginnings.
Episode: #174 (January 13, 2008)