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'Kite Runner': Danger On and Off the Screen

Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada, left, and Zekeria Ebrahim star in the film, whose premiere has been postponed to safeguard the young actors.
Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada, left, and Zekeria Ebrahim star in the film, whose premiere has been postponed to safeguard the young actors. (By Phil Bray -- Dreamworks)

Before traveling to China for filming, Zekeria and Ahmad Khan spent three months studying how to fly kites with Noor Agha, 53, a master kite builder and flier in south Kabul.

"There isn't anyone who makes better kites than me, or anyone who's better at fighting with them," Agha said while sitting on a grave outside his home and shaving long pieces of bamboo into kite frames. "In other countries you play football, but here we fly kites, and we study many of the same tactics. And if you don't think tactics are involved, I will fly mine and you can fly yours, and in two minutes you will lose your kite."

During the Taliban years, kite-flying was prohibited in Afghanistan, along with music, cinema, television, swimming, soccer and other leisure activities, Agha explained. So he, too, eventually escaped to Peshawar. But he continued finding solace in kite-flying.

"When I fly a kite, I imagine I am up with it and my spirit gets happy, even when I am fighting them for one or two hours," he said. "And until I get my kite back, my soul is up there with it."

Now that life is better in Afghanistan, perhaps "The Kite Runner" can help redefine the country, said Ahmadi, the head of the state film agency.

"When people talk about Afghanistan, they think of bin Laden and the Taliban and machine guns and mortars and killing, and we accept that," he said. "But life is still going on. We have marriage and love and tradition and religion, and maybe 'The Kite Runner' will help show people abroad the real face of Afghanistan."

Booth reported from Los Angeles. Special correspondent Javed Hamdard in Kabul contributed to this report.


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