The Boys from ‘Kite Runner’ Deserve an Award

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Everyone is labeling Ellen Page as the breakthrough actor of the year for her performance in the quirky yet flawed film Juno as labeled by the NBR, the Gotham Awards and the D.C. critics. The distinction baffles me since Page already “broke through” with Hard Candy last year and was subsequently then cast in X3 and ultimately Jason Reitman’s Juno thanks to that Hard Candy performance. Normally something as trivial as a breakthrough performance award wouldn’t bother me so much, but so far only the Broadcast Film Critics Award nominees give one of the young boys in The Kite Runner their due.

I finally saw The Kite Runner last night and this is not only an excellent film, it is very well acted film, and the great acting resides primarily in the roles of young Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and young Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada). The BFCA named Mahmidzada as one of the nominees in the Best Young Actor category, but how they felt it was justified to give Michael Cera two nominations for Juno and Superbad is beyond me. One of those slots, if not both, belongs to Ebrahimi.

These two boys are given a much harder task than that asked of Page or Cera in Juno and they are absolutely magnificent in their efforts. This isn’t a quirky comedy made up of one liners; The Kite Runner is a heavy handed drama and these two boys not only have to convince you of their characters for the first half of the film, they have to shape those characters in such a way that their grown-up counterparts immediately feel fully fleshed out. Both of them succeed at this task, and Mahmoodzada does it in a such a way that you will be absolutely floored.

The dialogue they are asked to say is just as intricate as the “Dawson’s Creek” jargon used in Juno and what Mahmoodzada is able to do in one scene without even saying a word guides the rest of the film as you become tied to the guilty conscience inside Amir from his youthful days in Kabul, Afghanistan to his adult years in California.

I avoided The Kite Runner like the plague, primarily because I wasn’t at all interested in a film whose storyline hinged on an act of child rape. Fortunately this scene is treated very well by director Mar Forster, in such a way that it doesn’t distract from the story, it only make it richer. On top of this, my opinion was also based on the numerous amount of articles in the media right now, and of which I reported on back in September, involving concerns for four of the young actors in the film. The “New York Times” describes for us:

The Kite Runner, like the best-selling novel on which it is based, spans three decades of Afghan strife and centers on the friendship between Amir, a wealthy Pashtun boy played by Zekiria Ebrahimi, who is now 11, and Hassan, the Hazara son of his father’s servant. In a pivotal scene Hassan, played by Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada, now 13, is raped in an alley by a Pashtun bully. Later, Sohrab, a Hazara boy played by Ali Danish Bakhty Ari, now also 13, is preyed upon by a corrupt Taliban official…

The director Marc Forster strove for authenticity in casting unknown boys in Kabul for the film, which was shot mainly in China last year. But in January alarms went off at Paramount when Ahmad Khan and his father said they feared reprisals. With violence worsening, even Afghan government officials urged that one or more of the boys be removed from the country, at least temporarily. The studio decided to move the three child actors as well as a fourth, Sayed Jafar Masihullah Gharibzada, now 14, who played a smaller role but became friends with the others.

The release date of the movie was moved allowing for them to be relocated, and now that they are safe The Kite Runner will hit theaters this weekend.

Will anyone go see it? Probably not, even though Khaled Hosseini’s novel is a best-seller these kinds of films tend to only do modest box-office before going on to take home a few awards and have a life on DVD. Unfortunately neither Spider-Man nor Batman makes an appearance here and there aren’t any superpowers or quirky comedy to bring in the masses. Instead all you get is a heartfelt story that you can’t take your eyes off of from the minute the opening credit sequence begins and until the final credits roll. This film really is that good, and it is all because of the performances of two young actors that aren’t going to get the attention they deserve.

I don’t want to speculate the reasons they aren’t being mentioned as 2007’s breakthrough actors, but if the National Board of Review sees fit to name Michelle Rodriguez, Bai Ling and even Alicia Silverstone as three of the recipients of the award over the past 12 years maybe it is best Zekeria and Ahmad are left off their list any way.

For more on the film click here.