GodblogCon 2007 hasn’t quite started yet, but one of the privileges of attendance at this year’s conference was an opportunity to see an early screening of “The Kite Runner,” (courtesy Grace Hill Media) directed by Marc Forster (who has also directed “Stranger than Fiction” and “Finding Neverland”). The film is based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini.

Michael Medved helped to host the event late last night, introducing the film and as a special treat leading a Q&A session with the movie’s lead actor Khalid Abdalla. There was a decent turnout, including Dr. Al Mohler, who is giving the first address at the conference this morning. The film’s story revolves around the lifelong friendship between Amir (played by Abdalla as an adult) and Hassan, and is set in Afghanistan in the late 1970s before the Communist invasion, later during the rule of the Taliban, and in America.

Considering the depiction of Amir and Hassan’s relationship in the film, I often considered their relationship to have a similar dynamic as that between Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are a number of parallels, not least of which is the fact that in one way or another both Hassan and Sam are “servants” or employees of their master’s family. Tolkien is said to have modeled Sam on the British “batmen” of the first World War, soldiers who loyally and unswervingly served their officers.

The story is very compelling, and as Michael Medved observed more than once (and quite rightly so), the movie isn’t successful because it is primarily political, but is a success because it is so intimately personal and human. Khalid Abdalla emphasized that this was the first Hollywood movie to focus on this region of the world from a primarily personal and familial perspective, rather than one focused on governments, military aggressors, or tyrannic oppressors. Of course those elements are present, but they are depicted from a much more personal perspective that is more familiar to us than pedantic political narratives.

Amir and his father, Baba.

There are some great lines in the film, and there are likewise some great performances, not least of which is Abdalla himself as well as that of Homayon Ershadi, who plays Baba, Amir’s father. One of the more poignant and telling lines comes from Baba, who says of Afghanistan in the late 1970s that the mullahs want to “rule” our souls while the Communists “tell us we don’t have one.” I don’t want to give away too much of the plot if, like me, you haven’t yet read the book.

My wife Amy has recently read the book, however, finishing it last week, and here’s her reaction:

It isn’t very often that I would say I’m haunted by a book I have read, but that’s the only way to describe my feelings after turning the last pages of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The novel follows the life of Amir, a wealthy boy who grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, but later emigrates to California with his father, Baba, following the Russian invasion.

Amir may physically leave his homeland behind, but he is unable to escape many of the things that happened there as a boy, including his friendship with and eventual betrayal of Hassan, the son of Baba’s Hazara servant. Hosseini eloquently illuminates Amir’s complicated relationship with his boyhood friend and servant.

From the very beginning, Amir is a gripping protagonist with whom you cannot help but sympathize. While his actions are polarizing and selfish, the complexity of his life against the background of ethnically-charged Afghanistan provides not only interesting character development but also rich insight into life in Kabul, including everything from competitive kite flying to racial tensions and Afghan traditions. It is hard to believe that this is the first novel from Hosseini, a former internist-turned-novelist. Tackling topics such as fear, regret, honor and loyalty, he poignantly touches on just about every raw aspect of human life, leaving no emotional stone unturned.

Most important, through the story’s many twists and turns, Hosseini’s vividly detailed writing will have you physically gripping the book with your hands as you anticipate what beautiful prose might lie at the next turn of the page. This is a book you will never forget.

You may have heard that the film’s release date was pushed back out of concern that some of the children who played parts in the film and who still live in Afghanistan might be in danger of reprisal over the film’s content. The film was scheduled to be released on November 2, and while none of the children have been removed from the country, plans have been set up to place them into safe houses during the initial stages of the film’s release in order to gauge the local reaction. The new release date is December 26, and I strongly urge you to see this film. Mark the release date on your calendar and be sure to support this film in its early theater release. You won’t regret it.


  • http://shaunarumbling.blogspot.com Shauna

    The Kite Runner was such a profound and excellent book that I am hesitant to watch the movie. I have a personal guideline about not watching film adaptations of books for at least one year after reading the book to avoid the inevitable disappointment that comes from comparing the movie to the book. I may make an exception in this case, though!

    I also wanted to mention that unlike Amy, I found Amir more difficult to sympathize with initially than any novel protagonist I’ve ever come across, although that made his transformation and redemption even more powerful.

  • Liger2007

    I love Hosseini’s confrontation with pivotal issues that are still prevalent in Afghanistan today. Paramount Vantage, the studio producing the film, just last week, postponed the release date back six weeks in an attempt to ensure the safety of the young actors in the film. The controversial rape scene and the political unrest between the Hazara and Pashtun are showcased in the movie http://www.kiterunnermovie.com It is a shame that the very topics Hosseini discusses in his novel are still, obviously, present today – so much so that a mere independent film could potentially cause drastic ramifications in the Afghan community.