The Kite Runner Film Delayed

Posted on October 4, 2007

Producer of the film version of The Kite Runner have delayed the release of the film by six weeks, in order to protect the young stars of the film from harm. Because of the nature of the film -- which portrays Afghanistan over three decades of strife -- and the restrictive culture, producers are worried that the boys might face a violent backlash when the film is released.

The U.S. release of the film, based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, has been delayed by six weeks to December 14 to ensure the 12-year-old Afghan boys are out of harm's way by then, an executive for Paramount Vantage said on Thursday.

The extraordinary precautions follow months of shuttle diplomacy and other preparations by the film studio to address concerns about the film's depiction of one boy's rape and other scenes of conflict between rival Pashtun and Hazara tribes. Worries about the well-being of the young actors have escalated as the level of security in Afghanistan has deteriorated in the months since the film was cast and shot, said Megan Colligan, a marketing chief for Paramount Vantage.

Although opinions as to the film's potential for inciting ethnic violence vary widely, "we feel an obligation to put the safety and security of those kids first," she told Reuters. The studio, a division of Viacom Inc.-owned Paramount Pictures, hired a former CIA officer to assess the risks facing the child stars while enlisting a human rights worker to serve as their "minder" and liaison between the studio and their families. "The consensus was we should take them out of the country until this blows over," said John Kiriakou, the ex-CIA counterterrorism operative, who interviewed about two dozen Afghan politicians and others on behalf of the studio.

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Arrangements have been made for the boys to then go to the United Arab Emirates, where they probably will remain at least until March, when the new school year begins, she said. By then, the film will have been released in theaters around the world. Although no commercial exhibition is planned for Afghanistan, the studio assumes that bootlegged DVD copies will make their way into the country. If a perceived threat to the youngsters persists beyond March, they will be permitted to remain in the UAE indefinitely, Colligan said, adding, "They're not going back to Kabul unless they want to go back."

What an extraordinary story. We wish the boys well. We sincerely hope that Paramount is making arrangements for the boys' families, as well. It's pretty disturbing that just appearing in a Western film could get the boys and their families killed.