"The Kite Runner," 2007, DreamWorks.
Here's entry No. 1 in the virtual (?) Red Bull Bull Film Festival, in which we explore movies that may have something--anything--to teach citizen-soldiers deploying to Afghanistan: "The Kite Runner," released by DreamWorks in 2007.
Let me say right up front, I don't see Joe sitting still for this film. (Further disclosure: Having not read the book, I am directing my comments here solely to the movie.) It's too arty, and it's subtitled, and it's a fictional narrative that features neither big bullets or big breasts. Every since my high school honey tricked me into watching "The Crying Game," I've known the red-faced blustery embarrassment typical of the young soldier. Soldiers do not like watching stuff that depicts homosexual activity of any sort, nor stuff otherwise labeled as "gay" by their friends, nor stuff they think will somehow label them "gay" in the low-browed, locker-room eyes of their homo erectus buddies.
For good or ill, "The Kite Runner" is too easily lumped into all three of those categories. The story follows the estrangement of two boyhood friends in pre-Soviet Afghanistan: Amir, son of a well-to-do Pushtun intellectual; and Hassan, a member of the Hazara minority and son of Amir's family servant.
The boys fly kites as a team, competing against others in aerial combats in which the losers' kite string is cut. Amir is the pilot, while Hassan is the runner. After a loss, Hassan recovers their kite; after a victory, Hassan hunts and claims the losers' kite as a trophy.
Warning: One small spoiler follows. It's one that I knew prior to viewing, however, and discovered that the movie cannot and should not be reduced to one scene or fact.
A group of delinquents bullies the sensitive Amir and his protector Hassan. Later, they attack and sodomize Hassan, while Amir cowers outside of view. Amir wrestles with how he failed to defend Hassan, but lacks the emotional tools with which to reconcile the event. Instead, he pushes Hassan away, even though the latter remains loyal and committed to their friendship.
Later in the movie, Amir encounters the Soviet invasion of his country, becomes a writer, and attempts to reconnect or make amends for his childhood treatment of Hassan.
Assuming Joe would squirm his way through some of the tough scenes, here's what soldiers could potentially takeaway from this film:
- A sense of the big mountains and bigger sky of that part of the world. (In filming, the Chinese region of Xinjiang stood in for Afghanistan, as well as urban parts of Pakistan.)
- The idea that pre-Soviet Kabul was a cosmopolitan, Westernized metropolis.
- The connections between Iran and Dari-speaking parts of Aghanistan: "Iran and Afghanistan share a language," author Khaled Hosseini mentions on the DVD comments, "They call it Farsi in Iran and we call it Dari in Afghanistan--it's essentially the same language, but the accent is very different."
- The idea that corrupt and hypocritical behaviors may exist as much in the Taliban as in other religious organizations. (Not trying to start a religious conversation here, I'm just saying ...)