The Kite Runner

Even though the movie starts in present-day Los Angeles, the actual story begins in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1978. It is a story of a friendship between two little boys, one is the son of Baba, a well-to-do business- man and intellectual, the other is the son of Ali, the house servant. Despite the disparity of their social levels, the boys are close friends.

Because kite flying is a competitive sport in many countries (each flyer attempts to cut the string of his opponents), and these two boys excel at the sport, they are subjected to harassment by older boys. Hassam, the son of the servant, is by far the braver of the two and springs to the defense of his larger, slightly older and wealthier chum, Amir, whenever the need arises. One day, however, Hassam is cornered by himself and raped by the bullies, with Amir cowering in a nearby hiding place. Naturally Amir becomes overwhelmed by guilt; that means he MUST get Hassan out of his sight so he isn't reminded constantly of his own cowardice. After trying in vain to uncover the basis of the schism between the two boys, Ali reluctantly takes his son and moves away, over the strident protests of Baba, who naturally has no idea the underlying cause of the problem.

Baba is played by an actor named Homayoun Ershadi, who has, beyond a doubt, the most noble eyes, profile and demeanor of any actor I have viewed recently. He is absolutely wonderful.

I found the locations to be endlessly fascinating: Kabul, prior to the Russians, prior to the Taliban, and prior to the Americans. The mountains and high terrain of Afghanistan, first seen in "Babel" but not seen since. The contrast with Los Angeles is stunning. We are treated to a sampling of these folks' lives after they are transplanted to the United States, still speaking Dari...sort of an offshoot of Farsi and Persian, and holding on to their old ways, traditional wedding ceremonies, etc., but working in mini-marts, swap meets, etc.

The director, Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Stranger than Fiction," "Stay" and "Monster's Ball") has done a brilliant job of eliciting amazing work from the children. In addition, he pulls no punches in his depiction of the Russians, the mullahs and the Taliban. Naturally the Taliban has banned the movie and the parents of the little boy who plays Hassam, have tried to get the rape scene removed from the film, as it may be jeopardizing the child's life. Ah, religion...

This movie addresses courage. Who has it? When is it appropriate? What does it accomplish? Even if you haven't read the bestseller on which this movie is based, you will find the storytelling great and the movie extremely well done.