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'Kite Runner' Kids Moving to Dubai

The three boys who star in "The Kite Runner," a new film with Oscar potential, will be moved from their homes in Afghanistan to new ones in Dubai thanks to Paramount Vantage, the studio releasing the movie.

The boys, two aged 11 and one 12, plus their parents, are going to be relocated in early December, right after their school sessions let out and before the film opens in the U.S. on Dec. 14. Once they’ve been moved to Dubai, Paramount Vantage hopes to bring them to the U.S. to do publicity for "The Kite Runner."

"The Kite Runner," directed by Marc Forster and based on the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini, has caused a lot of concern in Afghanistan because it concerns the forced rape of one of the boys and how it changes their lives.

I saw the film last night (Saturday) at a special screening and can tell you the scene is handled with great restraint and conveyed without any graphic revelations. Yet, in Afghanistan, and most of the Arab world, such a story could cause problems for the families involved.

Once the moves are made, "The Kite Runner" will open here and be considered a contender for Oscar and other award nominations.

There’s no question that it will be a hard sell with or without the publicity surrounding the boys. "The Kite Runner" is told mainly in Pashtun and Dari, Afghan dialects, with English subtitles. There are no movie stars on the screen, not even a cameo by anyone recognizable. The actors are all Afghan, Iranian or some mixture thereof. Almost no English is spoken in the two-hour film and there are no Western actors.

But all of the actors give outstanding performances, including Homayon Ershadi, as the young Amir’s father in the 1978 section. He is a possible Best Supporting Actor nominee. The other principals — Khalid Abdalla as the adult Amir, Atossa Leoni as Soraya, his wife, and Shaun Toub — are all excellent, just unknown.

"The Kite Runner," if you don’t know, is pure fiction, based on nothing but the novelist’s imagination. It takes place in two times — 1978, before Afghanistan is overrun by the Russians — and 2000, when the Amir, the main character, must face the childhood he left behind.

The book has something of a soap opera-ish twist that feels unnecessary in the film. But Forster and screenwriter David Benioff have stayed true to the material, for better or worse. Mostly it’s for the former.

Forster deserves kudos simply for making a film in two complex dialects of a foreign and — to Americans — obscure language. The overall effort of making "The Kite Runner" seems impossible while you’re watching it. Somehow, Forster and his team make life in 1978 Afghanistan seem frighteningly real and true. None of it feels forced, either, another remarkable achievement for the director of "Finding Neverland," "Monster's Ball" and "Stranger than Fiction."

The title of the film, by the way, comes from the novelist’s metaphor used through the book and depicted by Forster in the film with great beauty. The children’s favorite hobby in 1978 is flying beautiful kites high in the air competitively. It’s a recurring theme that could have been heavy handed, but Forster — who made the children in “Finding Neverland” so appealing — keeps aloft with a subtle touch.

How exactly "The Kite Runner" will stack up when it comes to Academy Awards and such is still very much of a question mark, and similar to the situation that attached itself to "Memoirs of a Geisha" a few years ago.

"Kite Runner" is not a foreign film, even though it’s in a foreign language. This year, we have a couple of movies like that, with Julian Schnabel’s mesmerizing "Diving Bell and the Butterfly" foremost in that category. Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” is in English, but large chunks of it take place in India.

“The Namesake” and “The Kite Runner” are similar in other ways, too. And if it comes down to some kind of choice, I think “The Namesake” is the more likely choice for a Best Picture nomination.

Other Best Picture titles in the mix right now, realistically, are Tamara Jenkins’ “The Savages”; Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”; “Michael Clayton” directed by Tony Gilroy; Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild”; Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men”; Schnabel’s “Diving Bell” and Shekar Kapur’s “Elizabeth The Golden Age.”

Still unseen: “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Sweeney Todd,” “There Will Be Blood” and “The Great Debaters.”