Studios have often been willing to shift release dates for films that might comment too directly or crassly on current events, but I can’t remember an example of a picture being delayed because it could get several of its lead actors killed. (Not that directors haven’t been killed for the content of their films before: e.g. Pier Paolo Pasolini and Theo van Gogh both paid an awful price for their art.)
So kudos to Paramount Vantage for pushing The Kite Runner to December 14th, which will allow its young actors – Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada, Zekiria Ebrahimi and Ali Danish Bakhty Ari – to finish school before possibly being shuttled out of the country for good. This is to avoid any violent reprisals from the oppressed Hazara community in Afghanistan. According to The New York Times‘ David M. Halbfinger (wah waaah wah!), Vantage actually sent a retired CIA counterterrorism operative to Afghanistan to gauge the seriousness of the situation. It sounds like he got conflicting information, but Vantage isn’t taking any chances. And that’s the best part of this story.
The worst part is the film’s casting agent, Kate Dowd, getting these kids caught up in this sectarian nonsense in the first place. While tensions between the Pashtuns and the Hazaras might not have been roiling in 2006 when the film was in pre-production, ethnic hatred has a way of flaring up whenever it goddamn pleases. So if The Kite Runner has the potential to piss off the "broader population" (which is largely illiterate and extremely sensitive to… just about everything, really), why invite trouble for three innocent kids just so your film can have some killer verisimilitude? I understand that you believe The Kite Runner is a powerful story of friendship that could change the world, but this isn’t The Battle of Algiers you’re making. It’s socially conscious prestige bait. And unless you were willing to whisk these families out of Afghanistan (per their consent) prior to principal photography, there was no reason to fuck up their lives for your Oscar chances.
This is pretty infuriating. Even if Marc Forster puts the pieces together for the first time in his career and nails The Kite Runner (and even though I don’t like the trailer, I’m still hoping for the very best based on David Benioff’s screenplay), it ain’t worth this kind of danger. But god bless Hollywood for its bull-in-a-china-shop belief that it can fix the world’s problems. Good work, guys.
But don’t take my encapsulation of the situation as gospel; read Halbfingah‘s (wah, waaah, wah!) interesting New York Times article for yourself.