In March 2009, I studied a film as an ethnographic artifact. Here are some notes from my watching of the film The Kite Runner (2007) directed by Marc Forster. Please feel free to use with credits back to this page.
Trailer (1:54): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqTu7RsTsYU
– and later, US
– “Master”; father of Amir; a rich distinguished man in the community.
– Amir; lead character.
– Ali; servant to master; father to Hassan.
– Hassan; servant to Amir; illegitimate child of Master and Ali’s wife.
– Sohrab; son of Hassan.
– Asseff; childhood bully; adult Taliban leader.
– “Uncle”; family friend to master to Amir.
– Ali and Hassan are Hazara people; a minority race deemed impure and second-grade.
– Amir’s mother died during childbirth.
– Hassan’s mother left the family for another man.
– Master is an infamous dissident in the community.
– Shia punishment is a type of honour-killing in religious states that condones violence (to the extent of death) as punishment to “immoral” or “unclean” women; these usually take place in public areas with male audiences.
– Note: Honour-killing is still rampant in certain parts of India today. While it is seen as a radical crime, feminist efforts have been suppressed by the government who insist that these occurrences are rare and few, and that they are domestic matters. But seriously, you could google reports on women left to hang from trees having their noses and ears slowly sliced off their faces, simply for talking to a male cousin or neighbour in public.
The childhood friends
– Amir and Hassan battle other pairs in kite-flying; Hassan runs for fallen kites for Amir; “a thousand miles over for you.”
– Amir only plays with Hassan when the other children are not around.
– Hassan sometimes requests for Amir to read to him; he feels inadequate because of his illiteracy.
– Master treats son and Hassan equally well; buys Hassan a top-grade kite for his birthday; Amir gets jealous.
– At the same time, Amir has always blamed himself for his mother’s death; he believes his father hates him for it.
– Amir often gets picked on by Asseff and gang; Hassan defends and rescues him all the time with his sling-shot.
– Master is upset that Amir cannot defend himself; Amir enjoys writing to fighting.
– One day, Hassan gets whipped by Asseff and gang while running a kite for Amir; “nothing is free in this world.”
– Amir merely watches secretly then runs off, pretending not to know anything.
– Amir plants his watch under Hassan’s pillow and accuses him of theft.
– Hassan willingly takes blame knowing the truth.
– Master surprisingly forgives Hassan and lets the matter blow over.
– Ali decides to leave his master and brings Hassan along with him.
Fleeing the war
– War breaks out in Afghanistan; master is prominent dissident, and thus escapes with Amir.
– Refugees had to hide in a pitch-dark enclosed cement tank while crossing borders; master picks up some soil and grass before borders and seals them in his locket.
– Refugees transfer onto a truck, but get stopped by militants insisting on sex with a lady on board as payment for the group to pass through.
– Master who was quiet throughout suddenly stands up to Russian officer and risks getting shot; another officer comes by just in time to stop the commotion.
– Lady with baby and husband thank master in tears; Amir sees father in a different light.
Life in America, many years later
– Master owns and runs humble convenient store; Amir graduates from college.
– Amir falls in love with daughter of formal war general, but is met with opposition from her father.
– The general and his daughter are of a supposedly higher class of people because of his elite background, even though at present day, they are all refugees in America.
– Master is dying from old age and disease.
– Amir finally marries the daughter of the general and writes a book about his experience; Master dies.
– Amir gets a call from family friend “uncle” requesting an urgent visit.
Back in Afghanistan
– Amir meets frail and dying “uncle”; Hassan has left Amir a note.
– Hassan was shot dead with wife while defending Amir’s house from Taliban and Russian invaders; he leaves behind a son, Sohrab, who is stranded in an orphanage.
– Amir learns from “uncle” that Hassan is his half-brother; he feels betrayed by father and cannot come to terms with it; the secret was kept to maintain the father’s pride, because “name was all he had.”
– Still, he decides to rescue Sohrab; he has to disguise himself with a turban and beard because shaven faces may face punishment from the Taliban.
At the orphanage
– Amir learns that owner of the orphanage sometimes sells children to Taliban for money; needs money to provide the children with food; act was in part forced onto him by the militants, in part his only other alternative.
– Sohrab was sold to Taliban militants; Amir has to meet the militants at a Shia punishment to request for Sohrab’s release.
– The owner of the orphanage persuades him against the danger, but Amir insists; “the boy’s father meant a lot to me.”
Meeting the militants
– Amir witnesses a Shia punishment of an adulteress being stoned to death.
– Audience of males cheer on but some express that this compliance is forced upon them/chosen by them to avoid conflict with the Taliban.
– Amir calls upon the militants at one of their headquarters and is immediately recognized by one of the important leaders, Asseff.
– Asseff is angered that Amir left Afghanistan during the Russian invasion many years back, instead of staying on to fight.
– Asseff calls Sohrab in for a dance performance; the poor boy is chained and ordered around like an animal.
– Asseff beats Amir up as a payment for Sohrab’s release; Amir does not retaliate to ensure Sohrab’s safety
– Sohrab uses his sling-shot to take Asseff’s eye out during the brawl.
– Amir and Sohrab flee.
– The pair returns to the “uncle’s” place only to learn that he has died.
– Amir, seriously injured, lies in bed for many days; Sohrab runs away from home.
– Amir finds him and learns that he has been sexually-abused by Asseff and his men all this time.
– Amir promises Sohrab a good home back in the US.
Bringing Sohrab home
– Wife accepts Sohrab as her own, but Sohrab is still very much withdrawn from everyone.
– Amir’s father-in-law, the general, worries about the family’s reputation because the couple did not bear Sohrab, and he is a Hazara boy.
– Amir finally comes to terms with his father’s infidelity and lies of many years, when he defends Sohrab to the general, and explicitly explains his relationship to Sohrab; “you will never again address him as a Hazara boy in my presence, he as a name – Sohrab.”
– The young couple brings Sohrab up as their own, and the boy begins to open up a little when they take him kite-flying.