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Old 10-06-2007, 07:19 PM   #41
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Dreadsox, unfortunately, we live in an era in which, if you are an author, the best honor you can hope for if you sit down to write a book, would be that you luck out in having it brought to the screen by a decent director. Which 95% of the time does NOT happen these days. JK Rowling fought the suits for creative control over the HP films, and with good reason. I wish we could all have miracles like Peter Jackson's adaptation of LOTR happen, (or, as is rumored, Upton Sinclair's "Oil!" with the new Paul Thomas Anderson film, "There Will Be Blood"--Variety and critics are already comparing it to Citizen Kane, calling it one of the greatest American films ever made, and it doesn't come out until December!) but in the rush to quick profit, such care is little taken these days.

Studios have always bought uncompleted manuscripts before they are hot off the galleys, but never to the extent it's done now. We live in an area when Hollywood suits, fearful of losing the confidence of shareholders, want to say as risk-free as possible, so writers who manage to get ambitious NEW material are a dying species. "High concept" is still pretty much everything, unless it's a book. For better (but I think for worse) we are living in the post-lit world.

It would also be interesting to know if there is some kind of shadowy "political" angle to this. Hollywood has so far pretty much kept out of the GWOT, but things like this, it can tricky--people might assign meanings and motives that may or may not be there. Look at "300" and what that became. The director didn't have neo-con motives but Frank Miller does and makes no bones about it. The film was a HUGE hit with Marines and was shown on bases. And now we've got Miller writing a sequel. Which (IF we attack Iran, IMO,we will) could become an entirely new lifeform of its own.

As to the controversy.....I have to admit I'm a bit ignorant of this. All I remember is a tibit from M.M. Kaye's novel "The Far Pavilions"--she quoted an Afghan folk song with these lyrics: "There's a boy across the river/with a bottom like a peach/but alas, I cannot swim." Kaye grew up in that area, the daughter of a British army officer, a real colonial upbringing, so I took that as truth.

I need some background too. I know about the Pashtun but who are the Hazira?
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Old 10-07-2007, 01:10 AM   #42
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I know about the Pashtun but who are the Hazira?
The Hazara are a people of somewhat uncertain Persianized Turkic ancestry who live primarily in Hazarajat, a very poor and rugged region of central Afghanistan. While they have been dominated by the Pashtun since the days of the Sadozai dynasty, to which modern Afghanistan's roots are usually traced (mid 18th-early 19th cen.), it was the ruthless suppression of their aspirations to an independent state by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan (late 19th cen.), during the bloody twilight of the 'Great Game' era, that effectively broke their backs as major players in the region: tribal leaders were deposed, large numbers of Hazara enslaved, very heavy taxes imposed on the region, and most of the more powerful Hazara tribes driven out of the country altogether, with their lands being confiscated and redistributed to Pashtun invited to settle the region by Abdur Rahman as part of his program of 'Pashtunization' of the country. Abdur Rahman deliberately made an example of the Hazara to other ethnic groups of what might happen if they challenged his rule, famously (among Afghans at least) warning his subjects that they too might be 'worked like donkeys' were it not for having the 'donkey Hazara' to do their work for them.

Hazara slaves were freed when Afghanistan's independence was declared in 1919; however, the promotion of Hazara culture and history were suppressed, Hazara were forbidden positions above entry level in the military and civil services, and the aforementioned reduced status of Hazara chieftain families gave rise to a socioeconomic system in Hazarajat vaguely resembling the post-Civil War South's sharecropper system, with former tribal rulers capitalizing on what status they still retained to coerce and manipulate the peasantry into tenancy arrangements resulting in chronic debt. Many Hazara moved to the cities, especially Kabul, where they almost invariably joined descendants of Hazara slaves at the lowest-paying menial jobs, further 'confirming' the scornful perception of them as a terminally backward and brutish people.

Some Hazara did participate in armed resistance against the Soviets during the '80s; however, as socioeconomically and politically marginalized Shiites (most Afghans are Sunnis) they were not major players in that conflict--although an ill-advised decision to join hands with the budding Northern Alliance as the Taliban began to emerge resulted in both betrayal (Hazara were massacred and their homes and weapons looted by Ahmed Shah Masood's troops during the invasion of Kabul) and, later, even more brutal retaliatory persecution from the (Sunni Pashtun) Taliban than they probably would have experienced otherwise.

Today the Hazara have representation in Parliament and Hazarajat is peaceful by comparison to southern Afghanistan, but the region has received much less aid than those of other major ethnic groups despite being just about Afghanistan's poorest, and by most accounts considerable mutual hostility remains between the Hazara and other Afghan groups, especially the Pashtun.
Quote:
All I remember is a tibit from M.M. Kaye's novel "The Far Pavilions"--she quoted an Afghan folk song with these lyrics: "There's a boy across the river/with a bottom like a peach/but alas, I cannot swim." Kaye grew up in that area, the daughter of a British army officer, a real colonial upbringing, so I took that as truth.
I briefly touched on this (i.e. the custom of mehbub / ashna) in my last post--it's not something I know much about though, and in any case it's not adequately documented enough yet to point to any one source as authoritative. Another oft-cited Pashtun 'folk saying' originally reported by a Raj-era English writer, Richard Francis Burton, is "Women for breeding, boys for pleasure, but melons for sheer delight." It's probably best to take the attribution of 'folk saying' status to both of those with a prudent grain of salt, but yes, among the Pashtun at least (not necessarily other groups) there does historically seem to have been a kind of cultural 'safe space' granted to at least one form of what we might consider 'gay relationships,' namely that between adult men and early adolescent boys. Almost reminiscent of the classical Greek version, with the 'courting' of the boy through gifts and 'mentoring' from the older man being central to the ideal--though it's always dicey to draw analogies between cultures so far removed in time and space, especially when the evidence is so scant. According to some journalists' and anthropologists' accounts, under the Taliban this custom was clamped down on severely (since it obviously violates the letter of Islamic law); yet anecdotal evidence suggests that in at least some regions, the Taliban in practice gave a nudge and a wink to their own commanders who wished to engage in it, provided they kept things discreet. Again anecdotally, the custom is said to have re-emerged somewhat in recent years, but more 'underground' than before (not that it was ever necessarily openly discussed). As with the 'analogous' Greek custom, mehbub / ashna as described appears to fall into what by our culture's standards is an uncomfortably gray area morally--granted these are not small children, in fact they're near the age of marriage on their culture's terms, but the innate power differential seems obvious, and the consensuality therefore questionable.

However, human rights groups have also documented numerous accounts from the Taliban period of what is quite clearly outright sex slavery--the abduction and imprisonment of boys and young men, often from ethnic minority groups or very low-ranking Pashtun clans, who were then made to serve as prostitutes for multiple men, certainly with no 'courting' or 'mentoring' involved. The Hazara were one of the persecuted minorities to whom this apparently quite frequently happened. Above and beyond that, and more to the point given the thread topic, male-on-male rape (and I mean rape, not 'gay sex') in general seems to be more commonplace as a means of violently enforcing power hierarchies among men in Afghanistan than it is in our culture. As with raping women, this is seen as profoundly shaming not just to the individual victim involved, but also to their family/clan/tribe (and again as with women, for this reason human rights workers often find it very difficult to get victims to share their stories, even in settings e.g. refugee camp clinics where it's clear to everyone present that the victim has been raped, whether s/he likes it or not). For this reason, in tandem with the aforementioned volatile ethnic tensions and the general 'cinematic illiteracy' of the culture (for lack of a better phrase), I'm uncomfortable with writing off these child actors' concerns as nothing more than 'homophobia' that they need to 'just get over already'. I can grant that it's not fully possible to clearly distinguish the shame of rape from the 'shame' of being 'gay,' given the way 'gay' is typically defined in Central Asian culture (i.e., as being the 'passive' partner in specific forbidden acts, rather than more generally feeling sexual desire towards other men, as our culture defines it). But I'm not willing to endorse gambling someone's life to force a clarification of the distinction.
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Old 10-07-2007, 04:30 AM   #43
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WOW.

Yolland, THANK YOU

I had no idea the Sunni-Shiite split was evident even in Afghanistan....though it appears that that might be only the modern manifestation of truly ancient rivalries which surely predate the advent of Islam. Who knows.

As to the man/boy "customs"...a gray area indeed. This is all so INSANELY complicated, I might need to go through this thread one more time...but your info is a good start. Jeepers, if our troops and "leaders" are ignorant of Iraq, and Iran, how much more so they are of there. At least the Brits a century ago made some efforts to understand their subjects...if only for the purposes of pacification and subjugation. Though I imagine the historic (and grisly) defeat at the Khyber Pass must have instigated in them a newfound respect for the Afghans and a desire to know more about them.

Funny, another quote comes to mind...what was that line in "300" about the "boy-lovers" of Athens....lol.
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Old 10-07-2007, 12:50 PM   #44
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Originally posted by yolland
[B]
For this reason, in tandem with the aforementioned volatile ethnic tensions and the general 'cinematic illiteracy' of the culture (for lack of a better phrase), I'm uncomfortable with writing off these child actors' concerns as nothing more than 'homophobia' that they need to 'just get over already'.

it appears as if i haven't been clear enough and i'm a little surprised at the reduction of my posts to people just needing to "get over" "homophobia."

my understanding, based on the articles i've read, is that these concerns aren't outright homophobia in the manner in which we understand it. these concerns have more to do with the idea that their son is going to be "shamed" on a movie screen. it would be akin, i think, to Sharon Stone reportedly being upset at not knowing that a small glimpse of her pubic hair would make it into the final cut of "basic instinct." it's after the fact, when it has all settled in, when the actor is coming to terms with the impact of making a film, that some kind of "buyer's remorse" sets in, and the remorse here, seems to me, to becoming from the parents who feel as if a generally cinematically illiterate culture is going to view their son as actually having been raped. it seems to me that they are playing up the potential for ethnic clashes and looking for ways to either save face, or to get out of Kabul.

that's my opinion. you cannot read the story, or have any passing famililarity with the story, without knowing about the rape. so i don't buy the family's claims of "we didn't know any better." i really don't.

the "shame" is inextricably linked to homophobia, in that their son would be coded as such for having been the (unwilling, obviously) submissive partner in an anal rape. his weakness is what allowed him to be overpowered by a group of boys, and one boy in particular, and as such he's coded as feminine. or gay. whatever you want to call it. it's homophobia, which, again, is really sexism, the fear or unworthiness or vileness of an effeminate man. is this something the culture needs to "get over"? well, yes, obviously, but obviously it isn't that simple. is it too much to ask these cinematically illiterate audiences not to kill actors? well, yes, obviously, but i think it's also obvious that the parental concerns are widly overstated.

and we're ignoring the overarching question of what a filmmaker's responsibility is to the story, the culture, and the actors. it's a fine line, a balancing act, and it could be argued that authentic Afghani actors and not cute Hollywood-tykes (even 1st or 2nd generation Afghani kids) are going to lend the film a cutural credibility that can't be bought in the San Fernando Valley. secondly, it's damned if you do, damned if you don't. how many times have films been criticized for employing non-authentic actors? from "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves" to the original cast of "Miss Saigon" -- it seems as if *more* cultural offense is taken at Kevin Costner's half-assed English accent or white Brit Jonathan Pryce running a Saigon brothel. finally, what kind of offense would be taken in the literary community at large if one were to edit this rape scene that's so apparently offensive (note: i saw a preview for the movie last night and it's rated PG-13, so it seems to me that the rape has been very, very tastefully done, if not entirely implied, which is what will probably happen and which, if i am to be totally cynical about it, is all the parents probably wanted to begin with so they don't have to bear the shame of watching their son bottom on screen). again, i'll point to "The Color Purple." lots of lesbianism in the book, only (extraordinarily tastefully and superbly lit) implied lesbianism in the movie (not to mention a depiction of sharecropping that seems more inspired by "zip-a-dee-doo-dah" than any sort of reality).

what's a filmmaker to do? do you not tell the story? is the story -- which is *beloved* across the world and about a culture that is central to the time period in which we inhabit -- not to be told because some people in Kabul might get upset? could this have been handled better? probably. but i'm not sure i'd do anything different were i in the director's shoes.
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Old 10-07-2007, 12:54 PM   #45
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Originally posted by Dreadsox
I hate that this is a movie....

It is absultely one of the best books I have read in recent time.


interesting ... i'm optimistic that this will be a good movie since i loved the story, but found the writing a bit much. sometimes, the movie is better than the book. my examples:

The English Patient
The Godfather
Silence of the Lambs
Schindler's List

a heady list, no doubt, but just some examples.
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Old 10-07-2007, 05:28 PM   #46
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[q]An Afghan emigre returns to his homeland to redeem his sins -- and those of his father -- in "The Kite Runner." With careful nurturing, helmer Marc Forster's richly detailed screen translation of Khaled Hosseini's beloved bestseller should reach beyond the book's many fans. Nuanced perfs and standout production design convey story in cinematic terms, preserving the narrative's emotional power and historical sweep as it spans continents and decades. While the largely unknown cast and subtitled dialogue may present a marketing challenge, they also create a feeling of authenticity in this poignant, intimate epic, which should attract a strong following among discerning audiences.

Paramount Vantage, which is rolling out "The Kite Runner" under its Paramount Classics label, has delayed the pic's release by six weeks owing to a rape scene featuring young Afghan thesp Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada. New release date -- Dec. 14, after the end of the boy's school year -- is a response to expressed fears that he could be attacked for his participation in the scene.

Deft adaptation by David Benioff ("25th Hour," "Troy") condenses cast of characters and events, but incorporates nearly all the novel's major moments, while the dialogue, much of it lifted directly from the page, finds a natural balance between English and Dari delivery. Most noticeable change -- the absence of a first-person narrator -- serves to make the visuals an equal purveyor of narrative information.

Central idea -- that no matter what a person's done in the past, there's an opportunity for a second chance -- provides a universally resonant emotional hook for protag's journey from cowardice to courage.

[...]

Remarkable nonpro child thesps Ebrahimi and Mahmoodzada perfectly embody the ethnic differences and class tensions between Amir and Hassan, as well as the chemistry of brotherhood.

Pic's emphasis on Amir's early relationships leaves relatively little screen time for his wife Soraya (Atossa Leoni) and her parents, characters who further illustrate Afghan traditions of honor and pride.

Shot on location in the Western Chinese desert that borders Afghanistan, the film marks the first use of China to portray another country. Ace widescreen lensing by Roberto Schaefer makes aerial shots of swooping, feinting kites pic's leitmotif.

http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117...goryid=31&cs=1


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Old 10-07-2007, 05:31 PM   #47
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from the LA Times:

[q]As noted in the New York Times, the studio sent an Afghan expert, who is a former member of the CIA, to Afghanistan to check out the issues surrounding the boys' safety.

"People believe there is a variety of opinions about whether or not the boys would be secure if a pirated copy entered the country," Colligan said. "We are taking a pretty conservative approach. If any credible person believes there is a credible risk for them, we are making sure the boys are safe. We moved the release day in case the boys want to serve out their school year."

"Our primary concern is the safety and welfare of the kids," director Marc Forster said Thursday in a phone call from Chicago.

The director said the controversy over the rape scene took him by surprise because the film is rated PG-13 and the scene itself is "impressionistic."

He noted that the father of one of the children who is now complaining never protested while they were in rehearsals.

"It did come out of left field," Forster said of the complaints. "The father of the kid met with the casting director and the producer twice back in Kabul and was informed about the content [of the movie] and the explicit [nature of the rape scene] as well. Then, when he came to China for pre-production, that is when I met the father for the first time." Forster said they showed the father the script along with the book. "We talked about it. We rehearsed the scene twice with the father present and he never said anything."

The director noted that when he cast the film, Afghanistan "was a much safer place. It had the feeling of a new beginning. Now the situation has become much more dangerous and is deteriorating and I think a lot of it is coming from that."
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Old 10-07-2007, 11:08 PM   #48
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Originally posted by Irvine511
it appears as if i haven't been clear enough and i'm a little surprised at the reduction of my posts to people just needing to "get over" "homophobia."

my understanding, based on the articles i've read, is that these concerns aren't outright homophobia in the manner in which we understand it. these concerns have more to do with the idea that their son is going to be "shamed" on a movie screen...the remorse here, seems to me, to becoming from the parents who feel as if a generally cinematically illiterate culture is going to view their son as actually having been raped. it seems to me that they are playing up the potential for ethnic clashes and looking for ways to either save face, or to get out of Kabul.
Yes, I was probably guilty of overstating for effect there.

The artistic aspect of all this, that much I understand completely and am more or less on the same page as you with. It's just a movie, it's just a story, no real children were raped in the process, and no judgment whatsoever, not even of the symbolic/propagandistic variety, is implied of the actual boy involved, nor his actual family, nor the actual tribe he comes from, nor the actual country of Afghanistan. If anything, one would like to think the actor and his family would be proud at his role in bringing to life a story with the potential to get people thinking, in a culturally and morally sensitive way, about violence and injustice and betrayal and the possibility of redeeming the damage done through compassion and self-reckoning and making amends. One would not like to think that the producers are simply getting milked by the actor's family because they got cold feet at the prospect of him maybe getting taunted a little for 'showing' things (so to speak; I realize the scene isn't graphic) onscreen which most people would be embarrassed to.

I think Viacom is doing the right thing by not taking any chances with the possibility that something worse than cold feet and taunts might result. This is not a Westernized country they're dealing with, it's one of the most poorly understood (by us) and inaccessible cultures in the world, and the ideals for what this film might achieve aren't worth a child getting hurt over. I don't think there's much of a case for doing anything more than that, and I'm not really interested in second-guessing the filmmakers' reasoning for using real Afghan actors at this point. But better safe than sorry where the uncertainties surrounding the possible repercussions for the actors involved are concerned.
Quote:
the "shame" is inextricably linked to homophobia, in that their son would be coded as such for having been the (unwilling, obviously) submissive partner in an anal rape. his weakness is what allowed him to be overpowered by a group of boys, and one boy in particular, and as such he's coded as feminine. or gay. whatever you want to call it. it's homophobia, which, again, is really sexism, the fear or unworthiness or vileness of an effeminate man. is this something the culture needs to "get over"? well, yes, obviously, but obviously it isn't that simple.
This, I guess, is the part where we disagree. Maybe I'm just reading a level into your analysis that isn't really there. But it almost comes across to me as if you're saying, "Look, even if this were a real rape, and/or intentional propagandistic advocacy of what 'boys like him' deserve, it's still unworthy to take great offense at it, because then you're endorsing the homophobic/sexist/whatever notion that this really is something to feel deeply humiliated by." Maybe that's not what you're saying at all, and if so, I apologize for completely missing the point. But if you are, then I just think that's pushing the resist-the-dominant-paradigm envelope too far--analogous to saying that it's unworthy, albeit understandable, for a raped woman to feel deeply traumatized because in doing so, she's inevitably endorsing the sexist notion that her 'honor' or 'integrity' is critically bound up in controlling access to her sexual parts in the first place, in a way and to a degree that preventing someone from e.g. giving her a black eye is not. It just seems like too much to ask. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I don't want to get into a protracted squabble over it...as far as I'm concerned, it really is 'just a movie,' and I'm looking forward to seeing it. I'd feel better doing so though if I knew the actors involved were safe.
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Old 10-08-2007, 09:04 AM   #49
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One would not like to think that the producers are simply getting milked by the actor's family because they got cold feet at the prospect of him maybe getting taunted a little for 'showing' things (so to speak; I realize the scene isn't graphic) onscreen which most people would be embarrassed to.



and based on what i've read, this is exactly what i think is going on and which is why i think expectations of violence are highly exaggerated and done for ... artsitic effect.



Quote:
But it almost comes across to me as if you're saying, "Look, even if this were a real rape, and/or intentional propagandistic advocacy of what 'boys like him' deserve, it's still unworthy to take great offense at it, because then you're endorsing the homophobic/sexist/whatever notion that this really is something to feel deeply humiliated by." Maybe that's not what you're saying at all, and if so, I apologize for completely missing the point. But if you are, then I just think that's pushing the resist-the-dominant-paradigm envelope too far--analogous to saying that it's unworthy, albeit understandable, for a raped woman to feel deeply traumatized because in doing so, she's inevitably endorsing the sexist notion that her 'honor' or 'integrity' is critically bound up in controlling access to her sexual parts in the first place, in a way and to a degree that preventing someone from e.g. giving her a black eye is not. It just seems like too much to ask. Does that make sense?

spelled out like that, it does make sense, and, no, it's not what i had in mind at all, though it does give me some interesting food for thought. that's too far into the pool of (as you say) resist-the-dominant-paradigm radicalism than i'm wiling to go, despite how fun it is to think in radical terms and to deconstruct even notions of "rape" or whatever.

what i think i've been trying to say is that the parental *objection* to the cinematic depiction of their son's *character's* rape on screen is something that needs to be gotten over. it is a story. it is not real. it was not happening to their son. it was happening to their son's character who is imaginary. it reminds me of the great pains that Will Smith and Anthony Michael Hall went to in order to make absolutely positively sure that everyone knew that they were absolutely positively straight after filming "6 Degrees of Separation" (where Will Smith is really very, very good, btw), talk about how, "the kissing scene was the hardest thing i've ever had to do," talk is so ... well, it's exasperating, and insulting, as if kissing a man were equivalent to having to portray, say, the rape of a child on screen.

this is the attitude that i'm sensing from the parents, and i feel as if the cultural relativism card is being overplayed and it will probably result in a ticket to Los Angeles and a decent apartment in West Hollywood for these families. i'm not saying it doesn't exist, or that it isn't at all a concern, it just seems overplayed, and based on the articles i've read, the thoughts of violence ripping apart the country in response to a film that's not even going to be released there seem, to me, to be much a do about nothing.

and the other thing that frosts me about all of this is that i think the movie -- it's getting glowing reviews so far -- really could be an "Important" movie and work wonders towards getting the Western masses to better understand central Asian cultures and to pay attention to a part of the world that's so critical to how the world works right now. and, most importantly, to give name and face and body and life to the masses who were once semi-dismissed as "we can't bomb them back to the Stone Age, they're already there."



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I'd feel better doing so though if I knew the actors involved were safe.
and my understanding is that they are.
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