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Arts & Culture

The Kite Runner Interview with Shaun Toub

For Amir, home is Kabul and in the year 2000 it's a bad time to think of returning because the Taliban has taken control of most of his homeland. The Afghan-born Amir now lives in the U.S. where he has just published his first book. The voice from the past belongs to Rahim Kahn, his father's best friend. Actor Shaun Toub (who also starred in Crash ) plays Rahim Kahn.

SHAUN TOUB: "I truly believe that Rahim Khan is the heart and soul of the film and the book. He's the force that keeps an eye on Amir and he makes sure that Amir has redemption. You know offers him the opportunity to at least be okay with his past."

Khalid Abdalla as Amir in The Kite Runner (Paramount Classics)


Rahim's phone call forces Amir to confront his past and leads the film into an extended flashback about Amir growing up in Kabul. In order to understand the adult Amir, the audience must first gain insight into the child. Amir was best friends with Hassan, the son of his father's servant. The two children often took delight flying kites.

But Amir tells a terrible lie that alters the course of Hassan's life. Shaun Toub worked with the children--Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada and Zekeria Ebrahimi--found in Afghanistan to play the young Amir and Hassan. He was impressed by their remarkable performances, especially considering that neither one had ever acted before. Toub says the children had to understand the complexities of some very difficult scenes involving emotional and physical violence.

SHAUN TOUB: "I look back to when I was eleven, and how much do you really understand because you have that innocence but unfortunately in that country kids have been exposed to so much at a very young age. But I believe they got a lot of it. And I think that's why they were able to portray the characters so well."

Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada and Zekeria Ebrahimi as Hassan and Amir (Paramount Classics)

The relationship between the children is influenced by the way Amir's father, Baba (played by Homayoun Ershadi), treats the boys. Baba is often critical of his son. So Rahim becomes something of a mediator between the boy and his father.


SHAUN TOUB: "He doesn't always appreciate and agree with how Baba reacts to Amir and he's always there to defend him and protect him. And one of the most beautiful lines that he tells him is that children are not coloring books that you can color any way you want."

This kind of universal insight has made Khaled Hosseini's novel popular around the globe. The film and the book revolve around Amirs childhood in Afghanistan and how that affected the rest of his adult life. Amir's personal journey provides an insiders view of Afghanistan. But Toub says, The Kite Runner is ultimately a very human story.

SHAUN TOUB: "It's about love, family, betrayal, redemption, and hopefully it makes you appreciate all that you have in life, and at the same time hopefully open your eyes to the world and makes you want to do good."

Rahim Kahn prompts the adult Amir to do a good act to make up for a bad one. Actor Shaun Toub hopes the film will do good by shining a spotlight on Afghanistan.

SHAUN TOUB: "These people have been through a lot and looking at this country, just the mere fact that we couldn't even shoot in Afghanistan because this Afghanistan of 30 years ago doesn't exist in Afghanistan any more because of all the war and what they have been through. Truly these people deserve better and we just need to be aware that we are not alone, we're all connected somehow and the world is becoming a very small place."

The Kite Runner uses one man's story to show how some of those connections are successfully made.

Companion viewing: Kandahar, Osama, A Taste of Cherry (for Homayoun Ershadi the actor who plays Baba), Atonement