Film Review: BLACK KITE (Canada/Afghanistan 2017)

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Black Kite Poster

Arian loves kites but a changing Afghanistan stands in his way. When the Taliban take power and ban kite flying, he all but gives up on his passion. However, to give his daughter Seema a … See full summary »


Tarique Qayumi

When Taique Oayunmi’s film, BLACK KITE opens, the audience witnesses a a political judgment/verdict of the violent chopping off of his hands of Arian (Haji Gul) which is then expanded to an execution the next morning.  In the prison that night, Arian almost dies of thirst but offers to tell his story in exchange for a drink of water from his fellow inmate.

But the story that unfolds is a different one.  The next scene is one with a little boy fascinating with kite flying.  The boy is Arian who learns both how to make and fly kites from his uneducated father.  The vast difference in tone could mean one of two things – a spectacular film that blends terror to innocence or a really mismatched film.  Unfortunately, Qayumi’s film is not only mismatched, but a complete mess, all over the lace despite some good intentions.  Many of the incidents do not make much sense.  He introduces new characters at any point and then removes them (Arian’s wife for example) and his messages on life (example Arian as the boy’s honesty) send mix messages.

The worst thing of all in the film is that it is never clear exactly the reason Arian is to be executed in the morning.  The only hint is that the enemy suspects him of sending messages to the resistance by his kites, but then why offer him pardon at the end of the film instead of execution.

There is a very odd point in the first half of the film when Arian as a boy attends school.  He tells his father a bold faced lie that he obtained a diploma where he had failed his schooling.  He is happy and dandy with no guilt.  His father praises the boy and later tells the boy that honesty is all that counts.  This mix message causes the boy to confess the truth but the father unfortunately dies before the confession during some insurgence.  The point here Qayumi wants to bring across is indeed puzzling, unless he wishes to satirize the point, which even makes less sense given the film’s context.

The one plus of the film is the assembled archival footage detailing the King, Zahir Shah’s attempts to modernize the country, including mandating public education for children.  This is a fact, I am many do not know.  But whatever happened to the king’s good intentions?  The film also touches on woman’s right issues, but again the line is blurred.  Women are not allowed to fly kites, so Arian allows the doughtier to fly kites when there is no moon and darkness so no one finds out.  This is hardly a point made for the good of female rights.

The film incorporates some animation that appear at various points throughout the film for no apparent reason.   As a result the animation appears out of place and totally unnecessary.  It also tends to become a distraction of the events that are taking place.

Instead of a political tale, Qayumi’s film ends up trivializing the events to the story of a man in love of the flying of kites.   For a film that has a running time of 90 minutes, BLACK KITE seems to be flying on forever.



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