The Kite Runner (film)

The Kite Runner is a 2007 American drama film directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by David Benioff and based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Khaled Hosseini. It tells the story of Amir, a well-to-do boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul who is tormented by the guilt of abandoning his friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet military intervention, the mass exodus of Afghan refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the Taliban regime.

The Kite Runner
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMarc Forster
Produced byWilliam Horberg
Walter F. Parkes
Rebecca Yeldham
E. Bennett Walsh
Screenplay byDavid Benioff
Based onThe Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
StarringKhalid Abdalla
Zekeria Ebrahimi
Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada
Homayoun Ershadi
Music byAlberto Iglesias
CinematographyRoberto Schaefer
Edited byMatt Chesse
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Paramount Classics
Release date
  • December 14, 2007 (2007-12-14)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[1]
Box office$73.2 million[2]

Though most of the film is set in Afghanistan, these parts were mostly shot in Kashgar, China, due to the dangers of filming in Afghanistan at the time.[3] The majority of the film's dialogue is in Dari, with the remainder spoken in English and a few short scenes in Urdu. The child actors are native speakers, but several adult actors had to learn Dari. Filming wrapped up on December 21, 2006, and the film was expected to be released on November 2, 2007. However, after concern for the safety of the young actors in the film due to fears of violent reprisals to the sexual nature of some scenes in which they appear, its release date was pushed back six weeks to December 14, 2007.[4]

Made on a budget of $20 million,[1] the film earned $73.2 million worldwide.[2] The film received generally positive reviews from critics, and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. The film's score by Alberto Iglesias was nominated for Best Original Score at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.


Setting: San Francisco, 2000

The film opens with an Afghan-American writer Amir Qadiri (Khalid Abdalla) and his wife, Soraya (Atossa Leoni), who are watching children flying kites at a bayside park. When they arrive home, Amir finds waiting for him packages of his new novel, A Season for Ashes, which has just been published. Soraya refers to the book as Amir's "baby," hinting at the couple's inability to have a child of their own. Amir then receives an unexpected call from an old friend of his father's, Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub), who is living in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Flashback: Kabul, 1978–79

Ten-year-old Amir (played as a child by Zekeria Ebrahimi) is the son of a wealthy man (Homayoun Ershadi), known locally by the honorific title "Agha Sahib." (Amir refers to him as "Baba," meaning "father.") Agha Sahib, a philanthropist and iconoclast, is a Pashtun living in Kabul. Amir's best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) is the son of the Agha Sahib's Hazara servant, Ali (Nabi Tanha). Amir participates in the sport of kite fighting, popular among the boys of Kabul. Two kite flyers compete to cut each other's kite strings, the defeated kite becoming the prize of the winner. Hassan serves as Amir's spool-holder and "kite runner," who retrieves the defeated kite. Hassan has the ability to determine where the loose kite will land without watching its course through the air. Hassan has deadly aim with his slingshot, and one day on Hassan's birthday, Amir gives Hassan a slingshot made in America. Hassan pledges his loyalty to Amir, swearing that he would eat dirt if Amir so asked.

Amir also is a writer, and he often reads to the illiterate Hassan. Hassan particularly likes to hear the story of Rostam and Sohrab from the Persian epic Shahnameh. Baba disapproves of his son's bookishness, and complains to his friend and business associate Rahim Khan that the boy doesn't stand up for himself, letting Hassan fight his battles for him. Amir overhears this conversation and Rahim Khan goes to Amir's room to assure him that his father loves him. Amir says that he believes that his father resents him because Amir's mother died in childbirth. Rahim Khan also encourages Amir to keep writing.

Amir and Hassan are often bullied by an older Pashtun boy, Assef (Elham Ehsas) and Assef's two friends, who harbor ethnic hatred against Hazaras. Cornered one day by the three boys, Hassan protects Amir by threatening Assef with his slingshot. The bullies flee, but Assef promises revenge.

Amir then enters the citywide kite-fighting contest, while his father, (who was a champion in his youth) and Rahim Khan, watch proudly from a balcony. Amir then breaks his father's record of 14 "kills", and Hassan sprints off to "run" for the last defeated kite. After Hassan has been gone for some time, Amir decides to look for him, and finds Hassan trapped in a dead end by Assef and his two friends. However, Amir does not assist Hassan because he is too afraid to intervene, and decides instead to watch the events unfold while concealed. Assef then demands Amir's kite as a payment for letting Hassan go and Hassan refuses, asserting that the kite rightfully belongs to Amir. Assef then beats and rapes Hassan in retaliation, while his friends hold the boy down. Disgusted, Amir flees the scene, and when Hassan emerges bleeding, Amir pretends not to know what has happened. Unfortunately, Amir is wracked with guilt over the next few weeks and avoids Hassan, who spends all his free time in bed. Ali and Baba then question Amir to find out why Hassan is acting so strangely, but Amir feigns ignorance about what actually happened to Hassan.

One day, Amir walks to the tree where he often read stories to Hassan, and finds Hassan teaching himself to read. Angry, Amir accuses Hassan of cowardice, and throws pomegranates at him, while daring Hassan to strike him. Hassan respectfully refuses, and instead picks up a pomegranate which he smashes into his own face. Later on, Amir asks his father if he has ever considered replacing his servants Ali and Hassan. Baba then angrily rebukes Amir, declaring that since Ali has worked for the family for over 40 years, Ali and Hassan will always stay with them.

Baba then throws a massive party for Amir's birthday, but Amir is unable to enjoy it, due to memories of what happened to Hassan. Assef also attends with his father, and Amir is forced to accepts his enemy's gift and well-wishes. Rahim Khan presents Amir with a blank book for his stories, and senses something is amiss. He assures Amir that Amir can tell him anything. However the next day, instead of telling the truth, Amir decides to plant his new wristwatch, a birthday present from his father, under Hassan's pillow, and tells everyone that Hassan stole it. Hassan is confronted by Amir's father, and instead of professing innocence, he falsely confesses to stealing it. Although Hassan is quickly forgiven, his father lets Agha Sahib know that he and his son can no longer work for him, and much to Baba's distress, they pack their belongings and leave.

In June 1979, the Soviet Union militarily intervenes. Agha Sahib leaves his house in the care of Rahim Khan and flees to Pakistan with his son. They travel by truck with other refugees and, along the way, they are stopped by a Soviet Army private, who demands sex with a young wife and mother who is among the refugees. Amir's father intervenes, daring the soldier to shoot him, but the situation is defused when the soldier's superiors appear. The husband of the young wife thanks Agha Sahib, who tells the husband that no thanks is necessary. Later, the refugees are transferred into the empty belly of an oil truck in order to be effectively smuggled across the border undetected. Amir is frightened by their circumstances, and Agha Sahib comforts him by having Amir recite poems.

Flash Forward: Fremont, California, 1988

Baba runs a service station and operates a stall at a weekly flea market. Amir earns a degree at a local community college, and Baba, though disappointed that Amir wants to be a writer rather than a physician, says that Amir can earn money by working with him.

One day at the flea market, Amir's father introduces him to General Taheri (Abdul Khadir Farookh), another Pashtun and a former officer in the Afghan army. In passing, Amir meets Taheri's daughter, Soraya, and Baba notices that Amir finds her attractive. Later, Amir gives Soraya a copy of one of his stories for her to read, but the General, who has little regard for artists, takes the story from Soraya, tosses it aside, and speaks dismissively to Amir.

Soon after, Baba is diagnosed with lung cancer, and he becomes gravely ill. Baba refuses to stay at the hospital and wishes to live his last days at home. After Amir brings him home, he asks his father to ask General Taheri for his daughter's hand in marriage. Taheri agrees, but Amir's father tells him that Soraya wants to speak with him. On a chaperoned stroll, Soraya reveals that when the Taheris were living in Virginia, she ran away with a Pashtun man and lived with him until her father came to retrieve her. Soon after, the Taheris moved to California to flee the gossip surrounding them. Amir is shocked, but still pledges his love, and they marry. Baba dies soon afterward.

Flash Forward, 2000

Rahim Khan persuades Amir to visit him in Pakistan. He tells Amir that the situation is bad, but that Amir has an opportunity to "be good again." Amir cancels his book tour and goes to Peshawar. Rahim Khan, who is dying, tells Amir that after several unsuccessful stints with caretakers at Baba and Amir's home, which Rahim Khan had been looking after, he had asked Hassan to return, which Hassan did, with his wife and son. Later, Rahim Khan had to flee to Pakistan when his own health deteriorated and the Taliban took over power after the civil war. But Hassan and his family remained in the home. One day, the Taliban appeared at the house and demanded that Hassan vacate the premises, declaring that no Hazara could be in legitimate possession of the house. Hassan refused to surrender the house, and the Taliban executed him in the street, then also killed his wife. Hassan's son, Sohrab, was taken to an orphanage. Rahim Khan urges Amir to return to Kabul to find Sohrab and give him a letter written by Hassan, who had taught himself to read and write. Amir resists until Rahim Khan reveals that Hassan was not really Ali's biological son. Rahim Khan says that Amir's father, Agha Sahib, had had an affair with Ali's wife and was the true biological father of Hassan, as Ali was infertile.

Amir agrees to go to Kabul, accompanied by a driver, Farid (Saïd Taghmaoui), who helps him don a disguise with a fake beard and negotiate the Taliban-controlled city. Amir and Farid go to the orphanage where Sohrab was taken and learn that Sohrab was taken away by a Taliban official who occasionally takes away young girls or boys. They are told that they can meet the Taliban official at a football match. Amir and Farid attend the match, where they witness the Taliban stoning adulterers at half-time. Amir manages to get an appointment to see the Taliban official.

After arriving at the Taliban official's house, Amir is surprised to find that the assistant of the official is actually Assef (played now by Abdul Salam Yusoufzai), who recognizes Amir immediately, even with the fake beard. Assef presents Sohrab as his dance boy. Assef agrees to let Sohrab go, but he begins to beat Amir as "payment." In the confusion, Sohrab is able to pull out his slingshot—the same slingshot that Amir had given to Hassan when they were boys—and shoots Assef in the eye. Sohrab and an injured Amir manage to escape through a window and flee in Farid's car.

When they get back to Peshawar, they find that Rahim Khan has died, but he has left a letter for Amir. The next morning, Sohrab has disappeared. Amir desperately searches for Sohrab in the city, ending up following a boy to a mosque. When Amir returns to Rahim's apartment, he finds Sohrab waiting for him in the stairway. Sohrab reveals that Assef would rape him before morning prayers and that he'd left because he didn't want his abuser to "get him" anymore. Amir assures Sohrab that that will not happen again.

Back in San Francisco, Amir introduces Sohrab to Soraya, and the couple welcomes Sohrab into their home. Later, Amir's father-in-law General Taheri demands to know why they have taken in "that Hazara boy." Amir reveals that Sohrab is his half-brother's son and stands up to his father-in-law to demand respect for the boy. The film ends with Amir teaching Sohrab how to fly kites and volunteering to act as Sohrab's "runner." As Amir runs off to fetch the defeated kite, he repeats, to Sohrab, the words Hassan had said to Amir when they were boys: "For you, a thousand times over."


  • Khalid Abdalla as Amir Qadiri, a young novelist who fled to the U.S. as a boy during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
  • Zekeria Ebrahimi as Young Amir
  • Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada as Young Hassan, Amir's childhood friend who was the victim of brutal torment. It's later revealed Hassan was Amir's brother.
  • Homayoun Ershadi as the Agha Sahib (Baba)
  • Atossa Leoni as Soraya, the daughter of General Taheri and Amir's spouse.
  • Shaun Toub as Rahim Khan
  • Saïd Taghmaoui as Farid
  • Abdul Salaam Yusoufzai as Assef, Amir and Hassan's childhood tormenter who became a terrorist as an adult.
  • Elham Ehsas as Young Assef
  • M.Ali Hassan as Sohrab
  • Maimoona Ghezal as Jamila Taheri
  • Qadir Farookh as General Taheri
  • Khaled Hosseini (cameo) as Doctor in the park
  • Camilo Cuervo as a Taliban Soldier

The three child actors were aged 11 and 12 at the time of the filming.[5]

Critical reception

The film received generally positive reviews, earning a 66% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 174 reviews, with an average rating of 6.44/10. The site's critics' consensus states: "Despite some fine performances, The Kite Runner is just shy of rendering the magic of the novel on to the big screen."[6] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 34 reviews.[7] gave the film an average of 77% based on audience's ratings.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times named it the 5th best film of 2007.[8]


Though the child actors enjoyed making the film, they and their families expressed worries about their situation after the film's release. Regarding one scene, Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada (young Hassan) said, "I want to continue making films and be an actor but the rape scene upset me because my friends will watch it and I won't be able to go outside any more. They will think I was raped."[5] The scene was depicted in a less harrowing manner than originally planned; it contained no nudity, and the sexual aspect of the attack was suggested only very briefly at the end of the scene (also, a body double was used).[9] There were also fears of intertribal reprisals, as the character Hassan was a Hazara and the boys who bullied and raped him were Pashtun.[10]

For their work on the movie, Zekeria Ebrahimi (young Amir) and Mahmoodzada were initially paid $17,500 (£9,000)[11] each, and Ali Dinesh $13,700 (£7,000). Arguments were later made that the boys were underpaid.[5] Additionally, Ebrahimi has said, "We want to study in the United States. It's a modern country and more safe than here in Kabul. If I became rich here I would be worried about security. It's dangerous to have money because of the kidnapping."[5] Paramount relocated the two child actors, as well M. Ali Hassan (Sohrab) and another child actor with a minor role as Omar, to the United Arab Emirates.[12] The studio reportedly accepted responsibility for the boys' living expenses until they reached adulthood, a cost some estimated at up to $500,000.[13]

After four months in Dubai, Ebrahimi and his aunt returned to Kabul in March 2008. After receiving threats on his life, Ebrahimi was forced to remain indoors and be home-schooled by an uncle. He has since claimed that he wishes he had never appeared in the movie.[14] Mahmoodzada stayed in Dubai for two years but returned to Kabul because his other family members could not get a visa to join him. Back home, he was continuously targeted by both the Hazara Shia's (for portraying them as a weak community) and by Pashtun Sunni (for portraying them as bad and cruel). The repeated humiliation resulted in Mahmoodzada—with the help of human smugglers—moving to Sweden; as of 2017, he was living in Borlänge.[15]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Result
2008 80th Academy Awards Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score – Alberto Iglesias Nominated
2008 Golden Globe Awards Best Original Score – Motion Picture: Alberto Iglesias Nominated
2008 Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film USA Nominated
2008 BAFTA Awards Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music – Alberto Iglesias Nominated
2008 BAFTA Awards Best Screenplay – Adapted: David Benioff Nominated
2008 BAFTA Awards Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated
2008 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best Supporting Actor – Homayoun Ershadi Nominated
2008 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best Movie for Grownups Nominated
2008 Art Directors Guild Contemporary Film Nominated
2008 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Young Actor – Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada Won
2008 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Nominated
2008 Christopher Awards Feature Films Won
2007 Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Nominated
2008 Hollywood Post Alliance Outstanding Color Grading Feature Film in a DI Process Nominated
2008 Houston Film Critics Society Awards Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
2007 International Film Music Critics Award (IFMCA) Best Original Score for a Drama Film – Alberto Iglesias Nominated
2009 International Online Film Critics' Poll Best Original Score – Alberto Iglesias Won
2007 National Board of Review Top Ten Films Won
2008 North Texas Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Won
2007 Satellite Awards Best Original Score – Alberto Iglesias Won
2007 Satellite Awards Best Screenplay, Adapted – David Benioff Nominated
2007 St. Louis Film Critics Association Best Film Nominated
2007 St. Louis Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film (Afghanistan) Nominated
2007 St. Louis Film Critics Association Best Cinematography – Roberto Schaefer Nominated
2008 Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture Nominated
2008 World Soundtrack Awards Soundtrack Composer of the Year – Alberto Iglesias Nominated
2008 World Soundtrack Awards Best Original Soundtrack of the Year – Alberto Iglesias Nominated
2008 Young Artist Awards Best Performance in an International Feature Film – Leading Young Performer: Zekeria Ebrahimi Nominated
2008 Young Artist Awards Best Performance in an International Feature Film – Leading Young Performer: Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada Nominated


  3. French, Howard W. (31 December 2006). "Where to Shoot an Epic About Afghanistan? China, Where Else?". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
  4. "'Kite Runner' release delayed to protect young stars". CNN. AP. 5 October 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
  5. "'Kite Runner' Boys Fear Afghan Backlash". Rawa News. January 14, 2007.
  6. "The Kite Runner". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  7. "Kite Runner, The (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
  8. Roger Ebert (2007-12-20). "The year's ten best films and other shenanigans". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  9. "Inside 'The Kite Runner' Rape Scene". Defamer. October 5, 2007. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007.
  10. "The Kite Runner: real-life drama that forced four child stars into exile". Daily Telegraph. 18 December 2007.
  11. Dean Nelson and Barney Henderson (26 January 2009). "Slumdog child stars miss out on the movie millions". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  12. "Life In The Raw". The Age. Melbourne. January 6, 2008.
  13. "Studio to delay release of Kite Runner to protect Afghan actors". M&C Movies News. October 4, 2007. Archived from the original on July 31, 2007.
  14. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (July 2, 2008). "'Kite Runner' Star's Family Feels Exploited By Studio". All Things Considered. National Public Radio.
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