the grace of the kite flyers and runners.....their kites spinning and feinting over the ancient city below.

The Kite Runner

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

          “The Kite Runner” is a sneak attack on our emotions. Faithful to the novel it is based on, the movie is a deceptively simple story that is propelled by big themes on the journey from failure to redemption. By mid-point, you may be surprised at how thoroughly the movie has absorbed you; how did this happen?

            We all know that following movie flashbacks can be a confusing, sometimes hopeless process. Not here. Year 2000: the film opens in San Francisco where Amir (Khalid Abdalla) is a newly published author living with his wife. He receives a call from Afhanistan. His father’s friend Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub) is asking him to come home, “There’s a way to be good again.” Because Amir has lived with deeply earned guilt from his childhood betrayals of his friend Hassan, he tells Rahim he will come.

            We need to know about the betrayals, and so back to the year 1978: Afghanistan before the Russians invade. This is the longest and most moving block in the film. Perhaps because we know this ancient culture is about to be erased by the Soviet invasion and later by the Taliban, the richness of it is overwhelming. Two beautiful young boys – Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (Ahmad Khan) live in the house of Amir’s father Baba (Homayoun Ershadi). Amir, son of Baba, and Hassan, son of a devoted servant, are best friends who know Kabul from their intense involvement in the city’s kite culture. Amir is the flyer, Hassan, the runner who chases the kite through the streets as it falls, driven by some inner instinct about exactly where it will land. It is on one such trip that Hassan is brutally attacked and Amir fails to help his friend in any way. Torn by guilt Amir turns against the damaged boy who now stands as a reminder of his own failure.

            If there is one performance here from which all others flow, it is Baba, Amir’s father whose code under all circumstances is civility – “all a man has is his honor.” For his young son, Baba embodies dignity in loss, courage in danger, kindness in fear. Actor Homayoun Ershadi is consistently riveting. As we watch the Soviets and then the Taliban crush the rich culture of Kabul, we become aware that this city sprouted long ago from the harshest of landscapes. The jagged white peaks of the surrounding mountains fall toward the barren foothills of rocks and dust. There is no life outside the city.

            Amir’s hard won redemption after his return to Kabul is moving but even more touching are the small acts of courage in the face of certain brutality. Only time can stop tyrants, and still individuals struggle to hold the core. While we watch the awful misuse of power by one country over another, we still remember the grace of the kite flyers and runners, their kites spinning and feinting in a contest over the ancient city below.


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