Kid Nation Kabul: Who’s the real victim?

I’ve been in no hurry to see the film adaptation of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 best-seller about a class-defying friendship and ethnic...

I’ve been in no hurry to see the film adaptation of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 best-seller about a class-defying friendship and ethnic tensions in Afghanistan. But when the film’s distributor, Paramount Vantage, pushed the release date from Nov. 2 to Dec. 14 in response to fears that the movie could aggravate political issues in the country -- and that its schoolboy stars and their parents are now accusing the filmmakers of mistreatment – then, I got interested.

Wait a sec -- after the movie is wrapped, the kids’ families decide their children have been mistreated? According to numerous accounts, yes. And the father of the lead actor, 12-year-old Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada, now says he was deceived by Kite Runner producers, claiming he wasn’t told of the film’s pivotal rape scene when he agreed to let his son take the role. He also insists that neither he nor his son had ever been given a script, and that when the filmmakers did get around to revealing the controversial scene, they promised to cut it after hearing his concerns that it could provoke humiliation and even violence.

These allegations completely conflict with those of The Kite Runner’s producers and director, Marc Forster, who intentionally cast the film in Kabul to assure its authenticity. Authenticity they got -- allegedly in the form of families so desperate to escape their nation’s unrest, they’ve gone from well-paid backers to demanding adversaries within just a few months’ time. Now Paramount could be responsible for the young actors' safety, education, and living arrangements until their adulthood.

I will never know what it’s like to be an Afghani citizen; I’ve never lived in a constant state of fear. But I find it practically impossible to believe that anyone involved with The Kite Runner was taking advantage of Third World children and their parents to make a buck off an art-house movie -- especially not one intended to draw attention to some of their country’s most disturbing aspects. The idea that anyone must fear for their safety is horrifying; of course the boys and their families should be protected, and Paramount Vantage seems to agree. But it’s equally horrifying that filmmakers should be put in this position, depicted as ugly, insensitive Westerners, when in fact they are trying to do something good.

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