© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

Drachenläufer (The Kite Runner)
U.S.A. 2007

Opening 17 Jan 2008

Directed by: Marc Forster
Writing credits: David Benioff, Khaled Hosseini
Principal actors: Khalid Abdalla, Atossa Leoni, Shaun Toub, Sayed Jafar Masihullah Gharibzada, Zekeria Ebrahimi

The book, The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, has been such an astonishing success and is so adored by its readers, that it was very courageous of the director Marc Forster (who also did the wonderfully touching feature film about James Barry, Finding Neverland) to take it on, although he had the full cooperation of the book’s author and the script-writing talents of David Benioff to help him. Forster was determined to reproduce the book as faithfully as possible. From the first memorable scenes of the idyllic childhood of two Afghan boys in the fairy-tale city of Kabul before its destruction by the Russians (shot on the Afghan border in China), up to the final scenes in a devastated Kabul under the iron hand of the Taliban (shot in present-day Kabul), Forster keeps faith with the book as best he can. Even the language in much of the film is Dari, one of the two main Afghan languages. But trying to cover 30 years depicted in an eloquent book with a two-hour film is not easy, and the result is like reading the condensed version: the story is there, but the depth is missing. As it happens, in fact, an important section toward the end of the book is omitted entirely.

The book is a deeply emotional story of friendship, the loss of innocence, guilt, atonement and redemption. And not all of the passion is lost. The three enchanting boys who play the children’s parts are first rate, although they had never acted before: for the part of Amir, Zekiria Ebrahimi, who was born in 1996; as his permanent side-kick, Hassan, Ahmad Kahn, born in 1994; and Sohrab (Hassan’s son) is portrayed by Ali Danesh Bahktiyari, also born in 1996. All of them had been living in Kabul when they were discovered. The boys have now been moved, along with a member of each family, to an undisclosed location in the United Arab Emirates for protection against tribal threats because of the rape scene in the movie.

The role of Amir as a young man living in America is played by actor Khalid Abdalia, who was born in Glasgow of Egyptian parents and lives in London. He taught himself fluent Dari in three months. His role is a tough one, and pivotal to the story. He must portray a man with an awful secret who is given a chance to go back to Kabul and right a terrible wrong. He is a haunted young man who never laughs, rarely smiles and shows little emotion – someone who is utterly closed down, and therefore, difficult for the viewer to reach or identify with. When he goes back to Kabul and suddenly develops courage and initiative, it is hard to follow his transformation. Perhaps that is part of what disappointed me. Or maybe it is just that it is impossible to make a film as moving and transforming as the book, no matter how authentic the scenery, or how talented the actors. Most extraordinary among them is the Iranian born actor, Homayoun Ershadi, as Amir’s father, “Baba”, who gives a stunning performance. (Adele Riepe)

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