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Issue Date:  January 11, 2008

-- CNS/Paramount Vantage

Khalid Abdalla and Ali Danish Bakhtyri star in a scene from the movie "The Kite Runner."
'Kite Runner' sines a light on Afghan sport

The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan (see main story) hit home with U.S. moviegoers this fall when the movie “The Kite Runner” was delayed six weeks to allow four young actors to be removed from Afghanistan to safety in the United Arab Emirates. Their removal, in the end urged even by the government of Afghanistan, was based on warnings of possible reprisals against the boys because of a culturally explosive rape scene in the film. According to reports, studio executives, relief workers and diplomats worked for months to get the boys out before the movie was released. They were resettled Dec. 3 and the movie was released across the United States Dec. 14.

The movie will not be released in Afghanistan but is expected to be available on pirated DVDs.

“The Kite Runner,” based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini, illuminates ethnic tensions, political turmoil and Taliban repression in Afghanistan through the story of boyhood friendship and betrayal. Its title derives from one of the country’s favorite cultural traditions: a competitive sport involving kites.

The goal of kite flying in Afghanistan is not, as it is in the West, to coax one’s kite into the sky, where it can soar along with others as a symbol of freedom and beauty and a demonstration of one’s skill. Rather, in Afghanistan, a flying kite is an invitation to duel. The goal of this unorganized, highly competitive sport is to use one’s kite string to cut other kite strings until only one kite remains triumphantly aloft. Kite strings become blade-like after being coated with a resin made of glue and crushed glass. Kite runners are those youngsters who, too poor to own kites, chase after those felled in duels.

Today, kite flying in Afghanistan, banned under Taliban rule, is enjoying a comeback. Men and boys (this is a male sport) turn out by the thousands on Fridays in Kabul to challenge one another.

-- NCR staff

National Catholic Reporter, January 11, 2008

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