Wednesday, January 02, 2008

MINI-REVIEW: The Kite Runner

Based on Khaled Husseini's bestselling book, "Kite Runner" is a story of Afghanistan's collapse from the just before the Soviet invasion to the final indignities of Taliban rule fitted into the familiar outlines of, in no particular order, Boy Becomes A Man stories, Immigrant Life stories and Redeeming Old Sins stories. The familiarity is the whole point - i.e. to give a predominantly Western audience insight into an "alien" culture by way of paralells, but there's a line between 'familiar' and 'predictable' that it comes a little too close to crossing. All said, though, some fine acting and genuine heart make up for most of it.

By shorthand, it's the story of a friendship between two Afghan boys: Amir, a rich kid who wants to be a writer, and his best friend (and son of his father's servant) Hassan. Amir is a sensitive sort, while Hassan is a tough-hewn scrapper who does the fighting for both of them. When opportunity arises for Amir to return the favor and rescue Hassan from a horrible brutalization by a group of bullies, his cowardice gets the better of him. Hassan doesn't know, but Amir's guilt at his own failings leads him to cruelly drive his friend away rather than deal with the shame. Soon thereafter, Amir himself is driven away along with his father by the Soviets. He grows to maturity in America, marrying a fellow Afghan immigrant and doing his father proud as a college graduate, but his guilt gnaws at him still - until he gets an unexpected chance at real redemption... one that means journeying back to his homeland and facing down the merciless Taliban face-to-face.

Once you figure out the lesson the film wants Amir to learn, it's not hard to plot the course of events from there on out. But predictability is mostly forgivable here, since it's all so genuine-feeling and well put together... with the exception of Act 3, in which the circumstances of Amir's redemption seem to line up so perfectly it starts to feel FAR too serendipitous. It's not the definitive story of Afghan life before and after the fall it wants to be - that will be made much later, probably IN Afghanistan - but it's a fine try.


1 comment:

Dude said...

A Gentle Suggestion:

Mr. MovieBob, if you get a chance, please ask an Afghan or someone who has studied the Middle East and ask what they thought about this movie. I don't know much about the place, I only took a class on Afghanistan in college, but I'll just say this: A lot of this movie is about dirty aspects of Afghan history and stereotypes and society. I know, I know, that doesn't necessarily make it a good film, and there are probably people who could do a better job, but given the current situation in Afghansitan (hell, the situation in general) it's going to be a veeeeeery long wait, and I will bet you good money that the next film about the country will have to be filmed outside of it when it deals with issues this hot again.

Which I have listed below, if you are content with dealing with random imput that has not been requested or may in fact not be appreciated on a movie this old. :)

If you do....

What issues?

For example: The kid getting raped, and then being accused of thievery in order to get away from the guilt? That's a stab at Pashtuns in Afghanistan, who act as a the majority and often behave like majority populations do. So the fact that a Pashtun has a friend of a differing ethnic background get raped and then accuses him of theft, something that has the cultural connotations of possibly pedophilia in American culture in Afghanistan....yeah, that's actually amazingly loaded culturally.

Also, there are repeated shots at the Taliban: First, the presentation of kite-flying, a custom imported from India which the Taliban, being ethnic Pashtuns, hated for not being....Pashtun, much like they hated many other non-Sunnis and non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan. Yeah, that's a stab at the racism in the Taliban that no one talks about non-Arab Muslims is pretty much the same in our eyes? But yeah, that's a big middle finger to the Talbian. Also that the rapist becomes Taliban himself, in fact head preacher, and participates in the stoning of a woman to death, metaphorically speaking, and then actually carries on his pedophilia in his role as a preacher? Yeah, that is the biggest insult you could throw at a Taliban. The incident that brought them to fame was when they were stopped two tribal factions who were fighting over the affections of a young boy. And when I say young, I mean young in terms of below statutory marriage laws in AFGHANISTAN. Yeah, you're hearing right, it's about stopping two local pezzonovantes from fighting over the rights to rape a child.

Yeah, there were reasons some people supported the Taliban...they thought, at the time, that it was a better alternative.

And the sad thing is, in some senses it was, for a little while....

So, having the Taliban participating in that action? BIG middle finger against the Taliban, and against ethnic Pashtuns, and all sides in the political conflicts between Communist and non-Communist Afghans, and against the Taliban.

Again, not saying the movie is good or anything, but there is a reason that the kids who helped make this movie are now in fear for their life. They challenged strong taboos in Pashtun and Afghan society by showing warts and not venerating.

And this is just the political stuff, there may be even more offensive religious content that I didn't catch.