The movie version of the book had its Middle East premier here recently during DIFF and after a mad dash from work through crazy traffic and what not, I managed to get there just in the nick of time.
Pleasant expectations of sitting through a screening involving lots of buttered popcorn, wads of tissue to dry my eyes and the company of friends, were rudely interrupted when I almost tripped face down over a red carpet that went for miles and miles and a gaggle of people who looked like they had just stepped out of the cover of Vogue - dressed in other words, to seriously kill. Yes, I did get the memo asking me to attire myself in "smart casuals" or not bother turning up at all ... and I thought I did myself proud in a resplendent looking embroidered salwar suit people! Clearly not what the organisers had in mind. "Smart" and "Casual" were definitely code words for something else that evening.
Fortunately I had the company of my equally clueless friends and we ducked our way around the (too) well lit red carpet and made for the dark and shadowy corners of the theatre. Not so dark and shadowy as it turned out - the 3 way screen was lit to look like the night sky and it was so pretty that I couldn't care less about my fashion sense or lack thereof! I was there to catch a glimpse of Khaled Hosseini if I could and nothing else really mattered.
I didn't get any popcorn (too pedestrian for the DIFF committee no doubt!) but I got to feast my eyes on a very young looking Hosseini up on the dias, looking humble and handsome and letting the stars of the film shine for the evening. Any of you familiar with ME cinema will know that it was a treat to have the likes of Homayoun Ershadi (he plays baba jan) and Khalid Abdalla (of United 93 fame) present in the flesh just before watching their mesmerising performances on screen.
Kite Runner the movie would in my opinion have not been as poignant as it turned out if it hadn't been for the children Mahmoud and Hassan played by Ali Danish Bakhtiyari and Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada respectively. They have been brought to Dubai to escape possible harrasament in their hometown of Kabul for enacting the controversial scenes stemming from class oppression that left such a mark on those of us who read the book. The movie version of the same scene I am happy to say has been handled with incredible restraint without losing any of its ability to hit hard in the gut. Those children are special, special, special - I could have Ahmad Khan for a son anyday ... watching him play Hassan in the movie will be a benchmark for child performances in my mind henceforth.
Marc Foster has directed a film that takes only the essence of the book without cheating us of a single nuance that made the book what it was in the first place. All the performances are bang on - although if I had to rate the best of them I would say that Baba jan's role played by Ershadi left the most lasting impression.
Every scene in te film has been pared down from the extensive dialogue in the book to paint a very vivid picture of Afghanistan then and now. The part towards the end of the film which shows a woman being stoned to death for adultery was short, brutal and made the point that every once in awhile we need to be shocked out of our complacent worlds and be aware. Human rights are not even words elsewhere in the world.
Off screen I loved watching the interaction between the Afghani kids and the American producers from Dreamworks who were there that night. I am far from being a die-hard romantic but even I could feel the real affection that they seemed to feel for each other. Altogether a special movie premier indeed.
And yes, the kites looked every bit as glorious flying on the big blue screen as I had imagined.
Go an watch this very important film. You won't regret it.