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'The Kite Runner' Delivers Universal Message


Marc Forster's movie drama, "The Kite Runner," follows the journey of a young Afghan from the streets of Kabul just before the Russian invasion in 1979 to today's San Francisco. The film is based on Khaled Hosseini's novel of the same title, and takes us on a journey of loyalty, betrayal and redemption. VOA's Penelope Poulou has a review.

Amir is a young Afghan-American writer in San Francisco. He is called to take a dangerous journey back to his country of origin, during the Taliban regime.

As Amir treks across a devastated Afghanistan looking for Sohrab -- the son of his dead friend Hassan -- he remembers happier days in Kabul. Back in the 70s, he and his friend Hassan had won Kabul's Kite Runner tournament -- a crowning achievement and his best childhood memory.

But Hassan does not come back with the kite. He gets ambushed by a gang of teenagers and is raped. Looking for Hassan, Amir witnesses the scene. Scared and dumfounded, he does not run to his friend's rescue. Instead, he hides his shame and guilt behind anger and denial. Amir's ties with Hassan are ultimately severed when, a few days later, fleeing the Russian invasion, he and his father abandon Kabul and head for America. Guilt-ridden all his life for abandoning his friend, now Amir redeems himself by saving Sohrab from a similar fate

Like the novel, the movie is considered controversial because it confronts sexual child abuse in a conservative Afghan society. But Khalid Abdalla, who plays Amir says "The Kite Runner" is a story about breaking the cycle of violence in a country ravaged by war and a society fraught with taboos. "Of course, I understand the taboos that we do have," says the actor. "But I think taboos are not good things. I think there are things that need to be fought against."

The film also focuses on the life of Amir in America and on a close-knit Afghan-American community straddling two very different cultures.

Khalid Abdalla says many Afghans and Afghan-Americans identify with the movie.

"We had one woman who stood up in one of the screenings and she said, 'Thank you, I feel represented. I feel like you've shared my culture and my history in a way that I recognize and in a way that I'm happy to share, even though there are difficult issues in there, but there are difficult issues in life and not to have them would be to censor.'"

Khaled Hosseini, the Afghan-American author of the best selling novel "The Kite Runner," says the story transcends Afghan values. "Guilt, friendship, forgiveness, loss, and desire for atonement, and desire to be better than who you think you are. Those are not Afghan themes. Those are not Iranian or Chinese. Those are very human experiences," says the author.

The international cast of this movie adds to the universality of the story. Khalid Abdalla learned Dari in one month for his role as Amir. He conveys with his eyes all that he does not say in words. Young Zekiria Ebrahimi is vulnerable and sensitive as young Amir. Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada delivers a tour de force performance as the fiercely loyal and wise beyond his years Hassan -- a little man in a young boy's body. This is an intelligent film that touches the human heart.