Behind the Controversial Scenes of 'The Kite Runner'

There is a lyrical, almost dream-like quality to the Afghanistan of Khaled Hosseini's childhood -- the world he captured in his best-selling book "The Kite Runner," which was turned into a powerful and affecting film by the same name.

Life seems to dance along like the brilliant kites the boys flew in his hometown of Kabul before the Soviet invasion, before the Taliban, and before the boy at the heart of the story loses his homeland, much like Khaled Hosseini had himself.

Those who reside in Hosseini's hometown will not be able to see the film. The government of Afghanistan has banned it from theaters and will not allow the DVD to be sold. The film has been banned because of a sensitive rape scene in the film, and because "It showed the ethnic groups of Afghanistan in a bad light," said Din Mohammad Rashed Mubarez, the deputy minister at the Ministry of Information and Culture.


'Authentic' Representation of Muslim Culture

The early scenes of "The Kite Runner" tenderly probe the relationship between two Afghan boys: Amir, the only son of a wealthy member of the powerful Pashtun majority, and his servant, Hassan, a member of the Hazara minority. Despite the cultural divide, they are close friends.

Though the film was shot in Western China, the director Marc Forster insisted on authenticity, even insisting the characters speak the Afghan dialect Dari.

"I think it was very key to make the film authentic," said Forster. "Because I think in Hollywood films in general, there's so much misrepresentation going on about the sort of the Muslim culture."


Casting the children was critically important, which is how Forster ended up in Kabul in 2005.

"When I was casting it was sort of this feeling in the air of a new beginning for Afghanistan, for Kabul, and everybody I met with," Forster said.

Forster, Hosseini and Paramount -- the movie studio that is releasing the film -- did not expect that the movie, which includes a sensitive child rape scene, would put the child actors involved in danger. In fact, Forster said that people had "embraced" them for "making a Hollywood film in an authentic way."

"I felt the story in the book will shine a light on Afghanistan, and it felt like there was a new beginning, so it never crossed my mind that any of these children would be in danger," he said.

But an investigation by a former CIA officer suggests the child actors may have reason to be fearful after movie's release.

A Dangerous Scene

The scene in question depicts Hassan being raped by a gang of bullies, while Amir watches and does nothing. While the scene is pivotal to the plot, it is now so laden in controversy that Paramount refused to provide a clip. Forster says the day of filming, Ahmad Khan, who plays Hassan, was upset.

"Ahmad came to me and said, 'Look, I don't feel comfortable of him pulling down my pants,' and I said, 'Fine, that's fine by me, let's not show it,'" Forster recalled. "And then we shot the scene and everything was fine."

In an interview after the filming was complete, Ahmad said that he and his family had not understood the controversial nature of the film, and were worried about the reaction it would create.

"Afghan people do not know much about cinema, and they will think this rape scene actually happened," the young actor said in an interview with BBC News. "So wherever I go, people will tease me about it."

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