Category Archives: A Few Unconventional Ones

The Unknown Bunker – Martin Sommerdag

The film opens with these lines:

During World War 2 Nazi-Germany built over 8000 concrete structures along the Danish west coast. after the war were many bunkers closed down or made public by the Danish Government. There are still many unknown bunkers.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/76406336″>The Unknown Bunker</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/alphahawk”>Alpha Hawk Films</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

It is said that in a screenplay, your first ten pages define how interesting the rest of the film is going to be. In the world of short films, I think it is just the first ten seconds. And for a person like me, these three lines certainly made it clear that the rest of the film is going to be damn intriguing.

I have been observing lately how important sound is in films. As the film commences the audience is introduced to a menacing soundtrack. It helps you get involved. But listen to it long enough and the conspiracy theories start building up in your head. Exactly what the maker wants you to think.

The film stars Thomas De Hansen and Martin Sommerdag. It must have been really challenging to be in front of the camera and handling the production at the same time. Having a small crew has it’s own benefits. It is difficult to pull off. But the directors who can manage it, make cinema a personal medium of storytelling.

The mood the film creates will definitely remind you of some classics of the genre like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. To enjoy this film, you will need to be a little patient. Some people have a taste for slow paced films that build up slowly but steadily towards the end. You need to set your expectations aside when you watch a film and start with a clean slate. If you do so, you will be introduced to a whole new world previously known only to the director of the film.

The film is smart and scary at the same time. The fun part is, as an audience you don’t feel like passively observing through the lens but you feel like you are actually taking part in the action. The whole realistic approach to filmmaking immerse you in the experiences the characters have and after some time you appreciate the raw images that move in front of you.

I think I owe a lot to the director for teaching me so much about the “found-footage” style of filmmaking. In fact it would be a nice experiment to try something like this as our next project. Cheers to getting inspired!

Director: Martin Sommerdag.

YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbtRsgPWIRU

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2008671/

Alpha Hawk Films

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Little Boy – Alejandro Monteverde

So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

As the title suggests, Little Boy is a film about a little boy. The film is set in the 1940s. Ostracised by the kids around him, this boy named Pepper (Jakob Salvati) finds his best friend in his father (Michael Rapaport). The two continue looking at their life through their fantasies until Pepper’s father enlists in his older son’s place for World War II. Now, Pepper is willing to do anything it takes to bring his father back to him. Even if it is totally beyond his control.

Watch the trailer here.

On his quest for bringing back his father, pepper meets certain people who influence him in a great manner.

  1. His elder brother London (David Henrie) who is filled with hostility towards the Japanese, just like the rest of America during war. London is also raged by the fact that he was declared ineligible for military service because of flat feet and that his father has to fight “his war” for him. After some days when the news of his father being taken as a prisoner of war reaches his family, London loses his mind and takes out his aggression on an old local Japanese guy named Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Along with Pepper, London attempts to threaten Hashimoto and gets arrested for the same.
  2. Pepper finds a hero. Just like the one in his imaginary world. Ben Eagle, the magician (Ben Chaplin). Who shows him a magic trick and moves a bottle.
  3. One day in the church, Pepper hears the Bible verse, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move” (Mt. 17:20), and goes to the town priest, Father Oliver (Tom Wilkinson) to learn how to use the power of faith. encourages Pepper to befriend Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). And also gives him a checklist that will make his faith stronger. And which will help him get his father back.
  4. Hashimoto becomes Pepper’s friend and helps him believe in himself. He tells him the story of a Samurai warriors who fought and saved his country from stronger enemies. Hashimoto argues with the priest that what he is doing will not help in bringing Pepper’s father back. And after Pepper completes the list, if his father does not come back from war, he will lose faith in himself.

These characters suggest that the film is also about having a good role model. And also about how through so many adverse thoughts surround the kid, how he makes his own choices and finds his own personal religion.

It is a very interesting term, personal religion. It signifies the personal, one on one relationship with an individual and God. No matter what others tell you about God, you will always have your own idea of God. And your ego will govern your relationship with God. Your ego will tell you whether you are acting in a way that God would appreciate or not.

The film is about a little boy and The Little Boy. It is an uplifting tale about faith and the power of believing in something. And at the same time, it does a commendable job of staying away from preachiness. In the end, it kept everything quite open to interpretation, making us the little boy and giving us a choice to believe what we want. Most impressively, the film points out that there is little difference between faith and magical thinking.

The film is written and directed by Smithsonian Institute Award winning director Alejandro Monteverde. And produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the husband-and-wife team behind “Son of God.” It earned $6.5 million on a $20 million budget. Which is kind of sad.

I watched this film and afterwards like I usually do, I searched for it online. I was stunned. I was amazed to see such negative reviews for a movie of this calibre. And I thought as a person who appreciates cinema should make an attempt to let the makers of this marvel know, that I think the movie is truly brilliant.

Looper, Time travel and More

“It is the big choices we make that set our direction. It is the smallest choices we make that get is to our destination.” – Dr. Shad Helmstetter

On the surface it looks like an action film based on the concept of time-travel. But as we explore further, it has more to it. I can’t say whether it is good or bad.

(The article does not contain a synopsis of the film. Please read it here or elsewhere. And then enjoy reading!)

Time Travel in Looper:

Time Travel is a very complicated subject when put to celluloid. It never answers all of your questions and creates paradoxes. By the end of the film when the credits start rolling, you always have to interpret what you saw on screen. That makes it really difficult for the makers of the film to make something palatable for the audience. We have seen films which are fairly easy to understand (Back to the Future Trilogy, The Terminator) and we have also seen complicated subjects in Cloud Atlas. (Cloud Atlas is Time Travel, kind of…) Looper has some really different theories about time travel.

Massive spoilers are ahead.

The movie has a linear approach to the repercussions of time travel. We experience stuff as the characters experience it.  Everything is kind of being created and fused in terms of the timeline in the present moment. Nothing has happened till it has actually happened. The makers have made an excellent explanation of how time travel affects the future self by torturing Seth (Paul Dano). Seth lets his future self run away instead of killing him. So his boss finds Young Seth and etches the location on his hand. The location then appears as a scar on Old Seth’s hand. While he struggles to get there, he keeps losing his fingers and eventually loses his legs. His limbs disappear. It implies that Young Seth is being tortured and his body is getting disintegrated piece by piece. Old Seth reaches the spot where Kid Blue (Noah Segan) kills him.

Similarly, Young Joe etches on his hand to give a message to Old Joe. When Young Joe gets shot, the bullet wound appears on Old Joe’s shoulder. Old Joe also forms new memories as per what Young Joe experiences. The only problem in the film according to this theory is that Old Joe disappears rather than dying in the last scene when Young Joe kills himself. When Young Seth loses his legs, Old Seth still exists and continues living in a linear timeline although it would’ve been impossible to get where he is shown in the film without his legs. So that implies that what happens to your younger self will appear instantaneously to you. In that sense Old Joe should fall down or turn into ashes when Young Joe dies.

In the Terminator series, we have multiple overlapping timelines. Every change creates a complete divergent timeline. In Looper, we have a similar situation, but everything loops back into into a single point in the same single timeline.

Metaphors and other cool stuff:

1. Blunderbuss vs magnum

As the makers have made it pretty obvious in the film poster, the Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sports a Blunderbuss shotgun and the Old Joe (Bruce Willis) has a magnum. In the film, the characters explain the specific role of these two different guns. Blunderbuss is a short range weapon but it is unmissable. At the same time Magnum has greater accuracy and can cover a long distance. Maybe that is what the decisions of our lead characters signify. Young Joe always thinks about his short term gains while Old Joe thinks on a long term basis. In the end, Young Joe kills himself with a blunderbuss. He goes with his gut feeling and finds a way of making a long term impact with a short range weapon.

2. The Stubborn Stump

When Young Joe meets Sara (Emily Blunt), she is trying to get rid of a huge tree stump in her field with an axe. Young Joe tells her that using an axe might not be the quickest way of getting the results. Sara doesn’t respond to this suggestion. She continues to break the stump using her axe. She chips off little pieces every time she strikes. This may not be the most efficient way of doing the thing but Sara believes that she needs to be patient. In the narrative of the film, we see that Sara’s son Cid doesn’t believe that Sara is his mother as he was raised by Sara’s sister after Sara abandoned him. This is the stubborn idea in Cid’s head which Sara needs to clear and she needs to be very patient about it. This element makes the movie about good parenting and how it can change the world.

Shock and AWE, provided by David Donihue

Whatever! Simply whatever you want to learn, The Internet is the answer. Nowadays, it is simple for us to just type a query in the search bar and get the answers in an instant. Living is far less challenging now, isn’t it? Well, not exactly. Even though The Internet is full of information, not all of it is worthy of your time. It might not even be true for that matter. In such times, I can’t express the joy when I discover something that is truly brilliant. Something that all of us young filmmakers can aspire to do some day!

1.Take Me Home

Just some time ago I discovered this music video by David Donihue. I was astonished by the positivity it has to offer. Not one of us gets everything so easily. And the way you deal with failure is what defines your character. There are two things that matter in the world. The situation and your reaction to the situation. Rather than revealing anything more about the contents of the music video, I’d just like to say that this video was uploaded just about 12 days ago and it has already crossed the 300,000 mark. Go ahead and watch it!

2. Shock To The System

Upon doing some research I found a few more videos by the same director. This time, it’s a totally different subject and the treatment will leave you astonished. A thought provoking concept, conveyed beautifully. Avoid the family filter and watch it. It is imperative that you do!

3. Doping

Well, just as I was talking about our reaction to the situation that matters, I saw this. It led me to believe that the situation doesn’t matter at all. In fact nothing else matters. This beautiful She Hulk in the video brought out the monster in me. It reminded me of two little words I love to say to all of them who do not appreciate my efforts. The video made me laugh and it made me think! That is quite an achievement!

4. Blue Sky

Something ironic about the video being in black and white isn’t it? I am a fan of Black and White. In fact, the very first film that I made was in black and white. Even one of my latest films is in black and white. The tone itself made me nostalgic. The music and the lyrics were a brilliant addition that simply took me down the memory lane. Watch the video and learn how well emotions can be handled!

“So who is the one that fills your life with colours?” This is the question I wanted to ask myself upon looking at the video. The video is simple and yet touching. And the interpretation of the title “Blue Sky” in the video makes this video one of my favourite music videos I have seen lately. I feel the title of any film or any art form for that matter, should have a deeper meaning. I could sense the director wanting to derive that meaning from the title of the song and incorporate it into the video so that it reaches the audience effectively.

(I took a break as I wanted to download these songs from iTunes, or otherwise.)

Coming back to the film making bit of these five videos… I think what I loved the most about these videos are the story part of them. Nowadays, when the attention span of audiences has shrunk down it is remarkable to find something that can hold the audience for 5 to 6 minutes. Usually we see music videos with fast moving imagery and no story at all. But I feel, the story behind a film is very important. And even I am sure I will definitely remember these music videos for the story and the overall direction.

Why am I featuring this awesome filmmaker?

I feel some filmmakers, over a period of time develop a style for themselves that they are comfortable in. I feel it is very dangerous for the “art” of cinema. As soon as an artist enters his comfort zone, the art dies. And I feel David over here is determined to give us a variety of good films in the form of music videos. I feel it is important that we learn that nothing good ever comes out of comfort zone.

Discovering a new artist on The Internet is happiness. It is a day well spent.

I want to share this happiness with you guys and I want you to pass it along…

Cheers!

Ebola Warning – A Chilling Truth

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
– Mark Twain
“Based on a true story.” “Based on actual events.” There is something scary about these lines that make any film even more scary. All of us know, film director James Wan using the same warning in most of his horror films. And maybe that slight possibility that the same incidence, can happen to us too underlines the horror in the film.
Not long ago, I had written about Found Footage films. I tried to explain my take on how realism can be used to enhance the experience of a film. I feel the film by Director Martin Sommerdag Ebola Warning [Biological Research Film] takes this realistic approach to a whole new level.

Ebola Warning [Biological Research Film] from Alpha Hawk Films on Vimeo.

As the Director has mentioned, this film is a byproduct of a personal experience. Not by the director himself, but by his father. He was a biosafety level 4 chief virologist and he went missing in 1997. He was declared dead by the authorities but his body was never found. The film is a digitized version of various classified documents together with the old super 8MM film reel. And the film points at a patient diagnosed with Ebola.

The film Ebola Warning was screened at both New York Film Festival and Los Angeles Film Festival in 2008. After which the director claims that a very strange incident happened. A gentleman approached him and telling him that he knows his father. They decided to meet the next day. But that man never came.

The video uses shots from a top-secret biological research film recorded by Centers for Disease Control in 1978. It shows a nurse collecting organic samples from the subject or patient. All under the observation of a mysterious guy dressed in black. I want to point it out to our readers that the patient zero (the first person to have contracted the disease) was identified in the late 70s.
Apart from this, the film keeps itself open for possibilities. It is equipped with an abrupt start and and abrupt ending, leaving it for the viewers to decide and interpret. For me, I am scared of biological weapons since I got the idea way back in school. What if the next super weapon is a biological one? A virus that can kill a country from the inside? How easy it is for a superpower to eliminate its competitors by releasing a deadly virus in a country! How efficient and how clean! The idea gives me goosebumps. The film has planted this conspiracy theory in my mind and it is going to be difficult to get it out.
I think I will have to watch something lighter to get this out of my system. Maybe I will watch another teaser of “A Beautiful View”

A Beautiful View [Teaser 2] from Alpha Hawk Films on Vimeo.

The Theory of Court (Court by Chaitanya Tamhane)

Before I begin writing anything about the film, I would like to clarify my intention of this post. First of all, this is not a film review. I don’t consider myself or anybody for that matter to pass rigid judgements on any art form. I believe I am writing this to engage into a discussion. People argue that the film is overrated. I feel everything is either overrated or underrated. Nothing is rated appropriately. If it was my baby I would’ve preferred an overrated baby rather than an underrated one. It took me a while to sink into the treatment of the film. But once I accepted it, I stopped judging it and my learning process begun.  I want to emphasis on the elements in the film that I liked and the elements that didn’t appeal to my tastes. And more importantly, I feel this subject and this art form requires a debate more than “My Choice” by Deepika Padukone / Homi Adajania.

In November 2014, when I was in the middle of a feast of films at Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), I came across a counter which was serving Court; it was flooded with hungry cinephiles. After missing 2 screenings and watching the third one from the aisles, my love-hate relationship with the film began.

MACROS

The film was a massive success at MAMI. It won the Best Feature Film award and the 62nd National Film Awards. And quite poetically, the Grand Prix Aleksandar Sasa Petrovic – Best Film award at Auteur Film Festival. Auteur is the fancy French word for Author. There is a “kind of” famous Auteur theory in Film by film critic François Truffaut. Which in simple terms makes the Director of the film, the author of the film; writing with a “camera-pen”. The film is the reflection of the director’s personal vision. And in case of Court, it truly is as personal and as visionary as it gets.

The film is a courtroom drama about a case whose verdict is pending. That’s how I would summarize the film in one line. The film is about this case. The case over here is not just the plot but also the protagonist. It’s a hybrid. You can imagine the case as the hero of the film surrounded by some important characters. We have the accused, Narayan Kamble; the defence lawyer, Vinay Vora (Vinayak Gombar); the public prosecutor (I think unnamed, played by Geetanjali Kulkarni) and the Judge (Pradeep Joshi). For those seeking more info about the plot of the film, watch the film.

Ever watched Bicycle Thieves or The Apu Trilogy? Yep, the boring ones. These films introduced Neo-Realism to the world. The theme of these films, if we can generalise, is the melancholy of contemporary life. That is the section where Court falls. Except, the director has introduced one additional theme through this film – lethargy. And this theme compliments the subject so well that it in fact enhances the experience. Honestly this is the one word you can use to describe the judiciary system of India. And that’s exactly what we see over here.

If the law of the state is going to permit me, then I would like to abduct Chaitanya Tamhane and his casting team and torture them till they spill all their casting secrets. The casting of the film, is marvellous. It simply enhances the authenticity of the film.

MICROS

The film begins with Narayan Kamble reading a poem about a Butterfly. You and I, (normal human beings) get scared when a butterfly enters our house. Not because it’s harmful for us, but it’s harmful for that innocent creature. Because it a cage for him with all sorts of dangers. My grandmother told me as a kid that once a butterfly enters a house, it doesn’t get out. That’s the accused for you. The accused, is the innocent one; just doing his job, now trapped in the system. Voila!

Let it be any character, when he/she enters the shot you see him/her entering from one end of the frame and exiting from another. Usually what we do is, we show a person entering → cut to close up → cut to another shot → boom, characters are about to exit the frame. That’s how we usually cut. Not only the characters are shown moving from one end to another in a frame in a single shot which has practically no dialogues but also there is a 4 second gap before the character enters and after the character leaves. There is a shot where the defence lawyer drops off the victim’s wife in a car. You should focus on that shot if you want to understand what I mean. Absolutely no cuts. Full action, just the way it happens. Even though there is no drama. On the other hand, conversations containing important exposition are just incomplete excerpts. I would like someone to help me understand this particular treatment.

Speaking more about the editing, in one scene the defence lawyer speaks about Human Rights and the Mohsin Parvez case at some event. He is disturbed several times. During his speech he is disturbed several times. Once when a guy stops him for placing a fan. I feel it emphasised two things. One was how seriously this matter is being taken by the audience and the organisers and two is that this point will not really make sense in the system. And I feel this is the only scene where we have a sharp cut, just when the Vora is disturbed for the second time.

The courtroom part of the film ends with the verdict pending. But the screenplay continues. Both the sides have made their point.  The judge, at some distinct point in the future will pass the judgement. And he does, when he slaps the verbally challenged kid based on the evidence, rather than empathising with the situation. That sums up our drama part. Roll Credits. (Slowly)

PS. I’d also like to know what happened to the music. (?)

THE THEORY

Every web-page that I visited so far describes Court as a critique of Indian Judiciary System. I  think that it is beyond that. It is a critique of our culture. That is why we have a highly educated lawyer, who drives his own car, takes his assistant to a trial, listens and enjoys portuguese songs, lives separately even though his parents own a building helping a man just for the sake of justice against a lower middle class public prosecutor who travels by train, can’t afford a maid, who lives in a one room-kitchen flat, watches old minded Marathi plays. It is the contrast in culture. And we have simple people, doing their job. When you think about it everyone is doing the job honestly. So the theory over here is – in Bicycle Thieves we have the situation becoming the villain making ordinary people steal; over here we have the system and our culture making us form the opinions about right and wrong.

“It’s the law vs. it’s a grey matter!”

VERDICT

When I watch a film, I’ve made a rule of keeping an open mind and a selfish one too. I have decided to keep the bad part away and take what is good with me. That helps me enjoy The Attacks of 26/11 not thinking that it’s an RGV film so it’s supposed to be disappointing. So with an open mind, when I watched this film for the second time, I noted down a lot that the film has to offer… Mostly good although unconventional. Most importantly it has given all of the young filmmakers something to aspire to. The dedication, the honesty and the genuine efforts of the makers. And it has again proved the point that any artist needs to have one quality in his possession in order to be successful – conviction.
“When I am making a film, I am the audience.” – Martin Scorsese

16th Mumbai Film Festival – Lessons in Dissent

“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
Albert Einstein

There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind is just like you and me. Whatever comes by our way, thrown by our superiors; we accept it. We are at the receiving end. And then there are people who consider it as their responsibility to be the change.

Lessons in dissent is a documentary by Director Matthew Torne and it was screened in the Real Reel section at the festival. The film is a portrayal of the fight of a few Hong Kongers against political oppression. The film mainly revolves around the group named Scholarism. It is a group of secondary school students formed to serve as an alliance against Moral & National Education.

Opening Sequence here

Trailer here

To be very frank, I did not intend to watch this documentary. I wanted to attend another film and I had to enter this screening as I couldn’t catch my desired show. After checking out the opening sequence I was quite amazed that the film is a non fiction film. It was quite unbelievable to see a 15 year old Joshua Wong addressing an audience of 1,00,000 Hong Kongers with such an aggression. When I was 15, my goals, my dreams were completely different. Witnessing the passion of these school going kids was totally exhilarating.

The film, is a completely political film with a one sided message. Judging from the film itself it appears that the school kids and their activism is a representation of all good against evil. My lack of knowledge regarding the subject prevents me from making any judgement out of it but I have a belief that every coin has two sides.

What I really admire about the film is, to convey the message in an appropriate manner, the maker has taken full liberty of using lots of text emphasizing subject matter and directing the audience. Also, the whole documentary is divided into chapters (lessons) justifying the fact that the film is against compulsory national education and the government interference in it.

The film lacks those stunning shots which would give it any acknowledgement as a brilliantly shot film. But it is surely a very well organized and a daring film altogether. This is taking run and gun to the next level. I could only imagine the kind of problems a film maker with western background would face while shooting such a sensitive subject in a country like China.

One has to admire this format of storytelling; a real hard hitting documentary. It acquainted me with so many social issues in Hong Kong and in China as well. It introduced me to the culture gave me a glimpse of the power of the youth. And at no point it made an attempt to preach any particular thought. Apart from a really important subject, the film also is important in the documentary films genre.

#2 Cloud Atlas by The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, and though a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud and soul is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul willll be tomorrow?

~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

If there are any films that you hate upon the first viewing, understand upon the next and start loving by the third one Cloud Atlas by The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer is certainly one of those films. It is based on the 2004 novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. The film is a Sextet of sorts with six stories which take place between the years 1849 and (roughly) 2346.

The official synopsis describes it as “an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.” The actors in the film appear in different roles in different stories. Which hints that each one is a vessel to its individual soul traveling from one lifetime to the other.

The ensemble cast is utilised in astonishingly well in an assortment of characters. The intricacy of the makeup is simply mind boggling. It is difficult to tell whether you are looking at Tom Hanks or Hugh Grant. And after a time you are trying to get a grasp of the story to such an extent that you don’t even bother. The makeup gives us a strong reason to believe that the characters are reincarnated souls.

Some actors have taken up the roles in which you have never seen them before. And probably you never will except in this film. There is an awesome article about the 5 weird characters in the film which you should probably read.

What sometimes bothers me about the film is that the structure is completely messed up. Sometimes, non-linear storytelling gives you the leverage to give reasons to a person’s actions in an even more effective manner. Over here, it simply complicated things a lot. If you are not really making an effort to watch the film, you won’t really end up leaving the theaters. The book on the other hand is linear. I haven’t read the book but for me, that structure would’ve worked a lot better.

There have been reviews ranging from calling it a total disaster and crowning it as the best film of 2012. All of these from eminent personalities and film geniuses. The film is listed on various Best Film and Worst Film lists. Ultimately it is upon you and the kind of narrative that appeals the best to your senses. Some may call it ahead of its time. Some may even consider that it is utter nonsense to waste your time on. And making a film so ambitious is an achievement in itself!

 

#1 The Kite Runner – Marc Forster

“It always hurts more to have and lose than to not have in the first place.”
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is the story of Amir Qadiri (Khalid Abdalla) hounded by his past. He lives with his wife Soraya (Atossa Leoni) in California. He receives a call from an old friend of his father’s, Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub) staying in Pakistan. And what happens that day, during that conversation changes the course of a whole lifetime!

After this small glimpse of the present, we embark on a journey to the Afghanistan of 1978. A place with open skies and blooming freedom. Far away from screams and gunfire. Where kites soar in broad daylight without any fear. Over here a young Amir (played by Zekeria Ebrahimi) and his servant’s son and his best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) is enjoying his life full of his short stories, books, movies and kites.

(Tiny spoilers ahead)


Every year a prestigious kite tournament takes place in Kabul. Amir and Hassan take part in the tournament as a team. Amir wishes to impress his father (Homayoun Ershadi) who was a champion in his own youth, by winning it. And they do! Amir celebrates while Hassan runs down the kite for him. Amir comes down looking for Hassan and finds out that Hassan is surrounded by Assef who is a bully and his friends in an alley. They try to bargain with Hassan to obtain the kite but Hassan denies. Assef then rapes Hassan to “teach him a lesson”. A petrified Amir watches this as it happens but chooses to hide rather than help his friend.

Driven by guilt Amir finally succeeds to make Hassan and his father Ali leave their house. And in a few days Amir and his father leave the country as the Soviet Union militarily intervenes. Both of them come to America and struggle to survive over there. All this while Amir takes it as his fault that Hassan is left behind in the terror that encompasses Afghanistan.

In the present, Amir comes to Pakistan to meet his father’s friend upon receiving his call. Where he realises that Hassan and his wife were killed by the Taliban. Hassan is survived by his son Sohrab who is still amidst the unstable Afghanistan. Amir takes it as his responsibility to find the boy and take him away to America.


The film crosses the obstacle of complex flashbacks and flash forwards. And it carries off the non linear structure with an ease. It demonstrates the power of this simple formula of a narrative: prosperity – tragedy – loss – redemption. The film doesn’t enjoy a well defined three-act-structure. There are smaller acts and each given the right weight. That is why whether it is Amir’s marriage or his father’s death; each important incident swiftly touches your heart.

The film is adapted from the bestseller by Khaled Hosseini of the same name. One of the most important part of adapting any story from one format to the other, especially when adapting for screen; it is important to edit. In this scenario the edit process begins first and then you write and rewrite until you have something that is true to its original self and new at the same time. As I read the book just before I watched the film, I knew the portions which made me deviate just a little from the story and David Benioff as the screenplay writer of the film has done a fabulous job in “editing”.

The film succeeds with its honest storytelling. There are no big stars in the film. Nothing to attract today’s audience, nothing to make them stick to their seats for two hours except a pure story. The actors with an actual Afghan background were enjoyable and absolutely convincing on screen. In fact they added a tinge of Afghanistan even in the scenes based in America. On the contrary in India we have a North Indian Actress playing a legendary boxer Mary Kom with no resemblance what-so-ever just on the basis of her popularity.

It is surprising that the film did not receive the recognition it deserved. Although praised by many experts from the industry, the film could only get a few nominations at the Golden Globe Awards and The Academy Awards. Regardless of how that happened, for me it is one of the stories that linger in your mind long after you are finished reading/ watching them. The story enlightens us about the horrific situation in Afghanistan and it carries a simple message within simultaneously. And as I based my short film which is to be screened at the 16th Mumbai Film Festival on a boy of a similar age, the film was a great teacher!