Monday, April 7, 2008

The Controversy of the Movie

This article appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday December 04 2007 on p16 of the International section

Kite Runner's Afghan child stars forced into hiding

Four Afghan boys aged 11 to 14 have been spirited out of Afghanistan to a haven in the Middle East to protect them from potential reprisals ahead of the world release this month of a Hollywood movie in which they star.
The boys and their guardians have been taken to an unidentified town in the United Arab Emirates where they have been placed in a school with many other Afghan children. Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the film, The Kite Runner, has promised to care for the children during the release period and possibly up to the end of their schooling.
The film includes a rape scene involving individuals from two rival tribes. Although the scene is sensitively portrayed, with the unstrapping of a belt rather than graphic action, it has prompted fears of possible ethnic unrest. Paramount Pictures delayed the release of the film by six weeks to December 14 to give time to guarantee the boys' safety.
The four boys include Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada, now 13, who plays Hassan, a low-caste member of the Hazara tribe; and Zekeria Ebrahimi, 11, who is cast in the role of Hassan's best friend, a relatively rich Pashtun called Amir. In a key scene Amir fails to intervene when Hassan is raped by a Pashtun man - a betrayal that develops through the film and lies at its emotional core.
Ahmad's characterisation of Hassan has been highly praised. The New York Times has said it "ranks among the great child performances on film".
Mr Klein said Paramount had recognised it had made an error in casting local Afghan actors. "A mistake was made. It was unintentional - the situation was not fully understood in terms of Afghan culture and history and the relationship between the Hazara and Pashtun people."
Most cinemas in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Taliban, but pirated copies of major films are easily available in the country. Security has deteriorated since the relatively stable period during which the roles were first cast.
The boys' families have complained they were misled over the controversial rape scene before filming began in a region of China bordering Afghanistan. They say they thought the film was literally about kite-flying.
Ahmad Mahmidzada's father has told reporters that they were not told about the scene until shooting was about to begin, and that promises had been made to remove it from the final cut.
Hosseini, who left his native Kabul in 1980 and now lives in California, recently supported Paramount's decision to relocate the boys. "Afghanistan has become a pretty violent place within the last year," he said. "If the boys and their families think there is a reasonable risk of threat to them, then you have to take all of the steps that you can to make sure they are OK."

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