Afghanistan isn’t always about the Taliban: The Kite Runner

Amir and Hassan - The Kite Runner

(Photo from telegraph.co.uk)

When was the last time you cried while watching a movie? I just did and I can’t even recall when I last teared up prior to this one. This is one hardcore movie and only the stone-hearted won’t well up. Based from Khaled Hosseini’s novel of the same name, The Kite Runner was shown in theaters way back in 2007. Unfortunately, it wasn’t commercially released here in the Philippines (afaik).

It was like Atonement but in a different geographic location and time period. What will you do to amend the things you have done when you had wronged another person? It is a story of friendship and loyalty as explained through the eyes of a then-child and a war refugee. Amir and Hassan’s friendship is slightly twisted and Baba’s paternal authority and conviction is something to admire. Ever since the Taliban brought new interest to Afghanistan in 2001 at the height of the “War on Terror” (through infamy on the West, definitely), all we know now is the war-torn, poverty-stricken side of that region. Little do we know that Kabul once flourished as one of the most progressive and burgeoning cities in the Middle East prior to the Soviet occupation (Kabul is one of the cities along the ‘silk road).

Set in the beautiful snow-covered mountain ranges of Afghanistan (but in fact, they were not allowed to shoot there but improvise on a Chinese territory), the movie depicted culture and politics in a viscerally humane way. It puts things into perspective about how do we conceive culture, though. Ethnic wars, Hazaras versus Pashtuns, who is more superior, the question of nationality and who takes precedence in a given land. Things like that. For instance, one part of the movie showed a young boy (Hassan’s son and Amir’s nephew… they were brothers!) made to dance in front of the men, wearing bells and other adornments to the spectators delight is considered to be part of Afghan culture —- bacha bazi (English = “boy play”). It has long been outlawed but the practice still goes on and these young boys are continually exploited (emotionally and EVEN sexually!) by the grown up men. But how can you ensure that such measures will be upheld in the war-torn area? Implementation of such rules are not always strictly followed. It is very sad and disheartening and I was also able to watch this documentary available on YouTube, chronicling the practice of bacha bazi in present day Afghanistan and other Middle East countries.

Similar to other adaptations, I see the movie first and pass judgment before reading the book. I got hold of a copy of The Kite Runner and has already finished reading it. The wealth of description in the book is amazing, but I won’t take it against the movie because movies can only translate so much. The Kite Runner is nevertheless amazing.

bryologue

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