We’ll take a break from health tonight so that I can tell you about this movie I just saw, The Kite Runner.  It affected me greatly, and there aren’t that many movies that affect me greatly.

The story begins in Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1970s, and it involves two boys, Amir and Hassan, who were about 13. They were best friends, but it was an unusual friendship because Hassan and his father were servants to Amir and his father. There were no mothers involved. Hassan and his father were of the Hazara community, considered lower class. Best pals Amir and Hassan were often badgered and threatened by a gang of older boys led by Assef. These boys hated Hassan for being Hazara, and they hated Amir for befriending a Hazara and treating him like a human being.  It almost came to blows once until Hassan pulled out his slingshot- with which he was expert- and threatened to take out Assef’s eye. So, the older boys backed off.  But another time, they trapped Hassan in an alley alone, and they brutally beat him, and then Assef anally raped him. Hassan didn’t know it, but Amir was there, hiding. He saw the whole thing, but out of cowardice, he did nothing.

Everything changed after that. The friendship between Amir and Hassan collapsed. It wasn’t Hassan’s wish at all, but Amir was stricken with soul-battering guilt.  And eventually, Amir took devious and cunning action to have Hassan and his father banished from his father’s house.  It worked, although not exactly in the way he planned.  

Amir wasn’t fundamentally bad- far from it. His nature was to be kind, respectful, and good, and you see it throughout the movie. It’s just that he was in pain from the guilt, and he thought that making Hassan go away would make his pain go away.  Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

But then, the Soviet/Afghan war broke out, and Amir and his father had to escape to Pakistan. On the way, there was an incident in which a Russian soldier tried to force himself on an Afghan woman, and it was Amir’s father who stood in the way. But, witnessing his father’s courage – to defend a perfect stranger- only heightened Amir’s self-loathing for having abandoned his friend.

Then, it jumps ahead to where they have immigrated to America. Amir and his father are living in Fremont, California, where there is, apparently, a large Afghan community.  They went from being wealthy Afghans to ordinary, working class Americans- but at least they survived the war. Amir is a fine young man who is very devoted to his father, who is ailing. And he is pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a writer, a novelist. He has graduated from community college, and he seems rather Americanized – he speaks English perfectly- but, he is still attached to his Afghan roots. He falls in love with a beautiful Afghan woman from a well-respected family, and they have a traditional wedding. His father dies soon afterwards. It’s a good marriage, but they are unable to conceive children.  He does succeed as a writer, and Amir has definitely made a life for himself, but there is a perennial sadness about him, and the viewer, of course, knows the reason why.  The burden of his guilt over what happened with Hassan he wears like an albatross around his neck, and he has no one in whom to confide.

Some years later, Amir receives a call from his father’s best friend, Rahim, who still lives in Pakistan. This man was like an uncle to Amir growing up. Rahim tells Amir that he is dying, but that he would like to see him before dies, and that he has something very important to tell him. So, Amir travels alone to Pakistan, and Rahim informs him that Hassan is dead- killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. But, Hassan had written a letter to Amir, which he entrusted Rahim to deliver. So, trembling, Amir reads the letter from his childhood friend, and from the letter, and from some other things that Rahm tells him, Amir realizes that there is something that he has to do. It’s for Hassan; it’s for his father; and it’s also for himself- a second chance to do the right thing in the face of grave peril. So, he travels into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan on this mission, and to say that it was harrowing doesn’t begin to do it justice.  At this point in the story, you are going to be riveted to your seat. I’m not going to say any more about it because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But, let’s just say it’s a story of rising to the vicissitudes of fate, and a story of redemption.

If you’re wondering about the title, it had to do with the sport of kite fighting, which is very popular in Afghanistan.  It’s where two kite flyers are maneuvering their kites so that the string of one cuts the string of the other.  And when the loser’s kite floats down, the winner gets to keep it. And there’s a team effort involved, consisting of a main combatant who handles the string and an assistant.  And one of the things the assistant does is run to retrieve their opponent’s fallen kite which is now theirs, hence the title: the kite runner. Hassan was Amir’s kite runner.