Kite Runner Review – Swoonworthy Afghan Film

(For SI Blog reader Kreacher)

A riveting and ultimately moving tale of two young boys in Kabul set against the depressing backdrop of political violence and the frayed social fabric of Afghanistan, Kite Runner is a film of stunning beauty.

And of horrific cruelty in its stark depiction of life in the war-torn land.

Kite Runner (2007) is likely the best film we’ve seen this year.

We can’t think of any other movie that has given us so much joy lately.

German-Swiss filmmaker Marc Forster (also the director of the 2008 James Bond thriller Quantum of Solace) has directed this film based on the eponymous novel by Khaled Hosseini, deftly weaving the tragic story of the kite runner with the relentless violence and chaos in Afghanistan over a 22-year period.

Adding to the allure of this Dari/English film is the haunting score by Alberto Iglesias that seems so apposite to the images flashing on the screen.

Dysfunctional Nation
The story of Afghanistan is one of prolonged nay endless trauma for its proud people.

Riven by tribal, clan, language and political conflicts, the rugged, mountainous land northwest of India has always been a dysfunctional nation.

From the days of Alexander, the people of the accursed land have witnessed repeated invasions. In modern times, the British, the Soviets and lately the Americans have pushed into the Afghans’ land but Afghanistan has never been subdued.

As one of the characters in the movie says in a matter of fact tone, the country has never taken easily to invaders.

But the greatest invasion on the Afghan people is probably by one of their own, the monstrous Taliban with their barbaric religious rules and brutal behavior toward women and children.

Kite Runner starts in 1978 before the Soviet invasion and concludes sometime in 2000 when the Taliban was running, and ruining, the country.

In the movie, embedded within the tragedy of Afghanistan is the tragedy of the kite runner Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), a servant in the home of his friend Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi). The difference in social standing (both in terms of class and tribe) is no barrier to the close friendship between the two boys.

The contrasts between the two boys could not be sharper – Hassan is aggressive, Amir is meek; Hassan is illiterate, Amir is already writing stories; Hassan is poor, Amir is rich; Hassan belongs to the looked down upon Hazara tribe, Amir is from the favored Pashtun tribe.

No divide it seems is strong enough to divide the two boys.

Unthinkable Horror
And then an unthinkable horror happens one day when one of the boys goes to retrieve a kite.

The slow, mournful unsteady walk and little drops of blood falling on the white snow easily count among the top heartrending scenes we’ve ever watched on a screen, the most poignant moments of this film.

In a weird poetic sense, it’s as if the horror were a harbinger to another tragedy soon to befall the nation – the invasion by the Soviets.

The film is scorching in its depiction of life in Afghanistan.

Like the rape of a young boy by an older bully or when we see a woman being stoned to death on charges of adultery and her body carelessly flung into the back of a pickup truck like trash or when we hear of the pederastic behavior of some senior Taliban officials.

Much as we were pleased with the story and direction of Kite Runner, the greatest pleasure came from watching the young boys perform with great elan.

The young kid who played Hassan, the servant in his friend Amir’s house, is a natural, gifted actor. Were he in the West, movie-makers would be making a beeline for his home. Alas, the young kid is stuck somewhere in the United Arab Emirates after being forced to leave Afghanistan following threats to his life.

Our great regret is that it took us this long to watch this film.

Although the film is mostly set in Afghanistan, filming could not take place there because of the endemic violence. Instead, Kite Runner was filmed in Kashgar and Tashkurgan in Xinjiang province of China, Beijing and San Francisco.

Kite Runner is available on Netflix DVD and Instant Play with English subtitles.

Your favorite blog strongly recommends Kite Runner.

If you love movies as much as we do, then you’ll not hesitate to watch Kite Runner soon.

10 Responses to "Kite Runner Review – Swoonworthy Afghan Film"

  1. rama dasa   May 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    tell those Afghani girls in the picture to start wearing t-shirts and shorts and sandals,it’s too hot to dress like your from the 1800’s! since there is no snow over there,what’s the reason to wear jackets????? Responds:

    You write: since there is no snow over there

    Says who?

    Look carefully, they are walking on snow.

    • rama dasa   May 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      My bad, I was looking at the babe’s face (the one with the pink headscarf) wasn’t paying any attention to the ground.

  2. kd36939   May 5, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Watched this movie long back…do not remember much, but i guess I enjoyed the movie.

    What I remember is I loved the soundtrack. This one is best – Responds:

    We’re planning to buy the Kite Runner soundtrack CD.

    Offtopic: Listening to Bill Preston’s Slaughter from Inglourious Basterds.

  3. kd36939   May 5, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I bought only one track from the movie (the one I sent you). Check out other Sami Yusuf songs. They are decent.

    Btw, You said you got Black Swan from Redbox. I am sure you must have watched it by now (being desi, i assume, you don’t like to pay late fee). Are you planning to review it? or waiting for something? Responds:

    Yes, watched Black Swan a few days back.


    Don’t think Natalie Portman is much of an actress. 🙁 She’s obviously a clever girl who knows how to play the game.

    Will review the movie after watching it again.

  4. vjcool   May 5, 2011 at 2:40 am

    hope you have watched Osama (2003)… Responds:


    • vjcool   May 5, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      it shows the oppression of the taliban, but not about bin laden , but about a girl who dresses and acts like a boy(Osama) to get an education. Responds:

      We’ll try to watch it.

      Just back from a new Telugu movie 100% Love. 🙁

  5. vjcool   May 5, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    100% Love.!! and you got hatred, I guess.. Brave SI, the things it does to review movies. Responds:

    We’re still recovering from the trauma of 100% Love (Naga Chaitanya, Tamannaah Bhatia).

    The only saving grace was the nuts-based pastries we bought from the Turkish Pastry shop near the theater.

  6. StrYngLad74   May 6, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I didn’t think it was that swoon-worthy considering it was filled with some contrived plot points especially vis-a-vis Assef, the bully, but it definitely had a feel-good ending. Noteworthy (besides the boys, obviously) were Amir’s dad, Baba Agha (Homayoun Ershadi) who was simply spell-binding with his screen-presence and an older Amir (Khalid Abdalla…who’s British-Egyptian and had to learn Dari from scratch) was pretty solid too.

    Nonetheless, I try to watch it whenever it comes on HBO/SHO just to watch Baba Agha and the ending scene with Amir and his in-laws. Responds:

    Yes, Homayoun Ershadi was very impressive as Baba Agha.

    We wouldn’t agree on the contrived plot vis-a-vis Assef, the bully, reappearing later in the movie. It could have been left out or he could have been substituted but the director/writer thought it’d have a better impact, from the perspective of payback/revenge and so we have the kid shooting him with the slingshot, an act his father Hassan should have done (when he was a kid and had the chance in the alley) but didn’t.

    Strange are the coincidences in life. You’ve obviously not experienced some weird coincidences. If you live long enough, you’re likely to see some strange coincidences.

    • முனிAndy   May 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      A man in our area was found guilty of 1st degree murder because he was apparently looking at the google map of site where he wife’s body was found the next day.. not sure if it was just a strange coincidence or actual crime. There is a public outcry that he has been railroaded without proper evidence. The google map is said to be the swinging vote – there was 0 physical evidence. Responds:

      In John Grisham’s latest book Confession, a man is convicted without the body based on the confession extracted by the police under dubious techniques.

      Wrongful convictions happen worldwide more often than we believe.

  7. niramay   November 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Did you read the other novel by Khaled Hosseini, i.e. A Thousand Splendid Suns?

    That novel was even better than The Kite Runner…a must read for all those who want to know what the plight of women in Afghanistan was during the Taliban regime. Responds:


    Will read it soon. Plenty of copies in our library system. Just checked.

    BTW, we’ll try to review some books soon on SI – Bharati Mukherjee (Miss New India), Daniel Woodrell (The Outlaw Album: Stories), Steve Jobs‘ biography etc.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login