'The Kite Runner'
A nominee for Best Spiritual Film in the 2008 Beliefnet Film Awards
The beloved novel "The Kite Runner" made a successful transition from Khaled Hosseini's pages to screenwriter David Benioff's script to director Marc Forster's screen. From the casting to the film's location in the Afghanistan-like Chinese city of Kashgar, the reader's imagination is on the big screen--be it in an abbreviated way, as most films based on novels are.
The adaptation's achievement is rooted in staying true to Hosseini's vision, giving readers a window into the Afghan culture that wasn't, and maybe still isn't, being depicted in major Western news outlets. The audience gets the ideal visual through the windowpane into Afghan spirituality with four unique characters: Amir, Assef, Baba, and Hassan.
Baba, portrayed by Homayoun Ershadi, stands to the far left of the spirituality spectrum as the most secular character. He believes the true test of a man is to never steal from others, and his prized possession in the diaspora is a small case filled with Afghan soil.
To the right of him is Amir (played by Khalid Abdalla and Zekeria Ebrahimi), who explores Islam as a child through school teachings and what his father, Baba, practices and later finds his faith as an adult.
Amir's childhood friend/servant Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) is more than a few steps to his right, as he embodies the simply devout Muslim without cause or expectation for those around him.
Then at the far right, Assef (Abdul Salam Yusoufzai) cowers while symbolizing the Taliban as a whole and the extreme interpretation of Islam filmgoers commonly see on their television screens' news shows.
In all, the best spiritual film has to be one where a universal message resonates with the movie audience, where if necessary it transforms from the indie-flick appeal to the mainstream. "The Kite Runner" has done just that. It brought in its reader fan base, and those new to its phenomenon, overcoming the potential to be yet another depressing Middle Eastern movie and rising to become a feature with the ultimate message that one can regain their innate goodness.--Sara Shereen Bakhshian