Thursday, February 22 , 2018, 9:02 am | Fair 43º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘The Kite Runner’

The depth of love and the power of forgiveness transcend time and place.

3 Stars — Thoughtful

Based on the best-selling book by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner takes us into the world of Afghanistan through the eyes of two young boys whose friendship is tested.  Set in the years prior to, during, and following the Russian invasion of Afghanistan 25 years ago, Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi as a child and Khalid Abdalla as an adult) and Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) are two friends from different racial backgrounds who enjoy each other’s company and loyalty, as well as a passion for flying kites.

Amir, like his father, has distinguished himself as a master kite flyer, and Hassan is his loyal friend who serves as a kite runner, someone who retrieves a free-flowing kite released during a competition.  Like most young children, these two friends are oblivious to the racial prejudices that exist in the larger world.  Not only is Hassan the son of a servant of Amir’s father, he is also considered to be racially and socially below that of Amir’s family.

Despite the taunts that Hassan receives from older boys, his love and loyalty to Amir leads him to protect his friend, even when it means taking physical abuse from those who beat him for entering their neighborhood.  In a particularly difficult circumstance, Hassan sustains a brutal sexual attack rather than betraying and abandoning his friendship to Amir.

Amir, on the other hand, becomes more fearful for his own safety as he gets older and feels the pressure of the neighborhood bullies.  Slowly, Amir abandons his friendship with Hassan and takes on more of the racial fears of his peer group.  A man of strong character, Amir’s father models a loyalty and affection for Hassan’s father that Amir comes to appreciate only as an adult.

When the Soviet Union enters Afghanistan in 1979, Amir’s father leaves his property in the care of Hassan’s father and flees the country amid the chaos and brutality of the Russian invasion.  After a harrowing escape, Amir and his father end up in California, where Amir grows into adulthood, completes college and falls in love.  Life in the United States is a world away from the streets of Kabul.

The story takes its strongest turn following Amir’s graduation from college. He receives a call from his homeland and learns his childhood friend has died.  Hassan, as it turns out, had a son who is being abused by the Taliban, who are now in control of the country.  With fear and trepidation, Amir makes the choice to return to Afghanistan and rescue the boy as a way of relieving the guilt he feels for abandoning his loyal friend years earlier.

Without giving away the story, this trip back into the world of the Taliban reveals a darkness in the soul of humankind.  The evil perpetuated by these self-righteous religious leaders is haunting.  As is often the case, those who preach purity the loudest often have much dirt to hide.  The Taliban leader who is abusing Hassan’s son is the same man who, as a teenager, abused Hassan himself.

In the end, Amir is able to give Hassan’s son a life filled with the loving kindness and safety that had escaped his father.  It was Hassan’s unwavering love for his childhood friend all those years ago that set the stage for the healing that ultimately occurs.  Regardless of the ways we fail in our relationships with one another, it is a remarkable testament to the power of forgiveness and the depth of love that seeds planted decades earlier during the innocence of childhood can grow to maturity.

Discussion:

The gift of lifelong friendship is increasingly rare in our world.  Do you have such a friend?  Have you had to sacrifice in order to keep that relationship?

The abuse Hassan and his son received had devastating effects.  How do you believe society should deal with such abusers?

The use of religion to hide abuse is a horrific act.  How do you believe we should deal with such misuse?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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