The filmmakers have repeatedly said they had no inkling of the danger during the making of the film. "Nobody that we were working with [in Afghanistan] ever said this could be anything but a positive thing for these kids and their families and for their culture," says producer Rebecca Yeldham. "There was such joy and enthusiasm for the sincerity and seriousness of our approach."
The filmmakers say the situation has changed because of escalating violence in Afghanistan. But former Ambassador Shahryar says that has little to do with the danger facing the children, which involves long-standing taboos in Afghan culture. "I think in cases like this, all times are bad—nothing to do with the [idea that] the situation is worse now," he says. Paramount's own consultant concurs that the filmmakers walked into this situation naively at best.
It is interesting how filmmakers can invest so much time and so many resources into creating authenticity on movies set in a different place and time. And then they claim ignorance about the very subject that they've been studying.
Yeldham, the producer, says Ahmad Jan Mahmidzada—the father of the then-12-year-old schoolboy recruited to play Hassan—has falsely accused the Kite Runner team of misleading him about the film by downplaying its dark elements. But they confirm young Ahmad Kahn's account that he balked at playing the scene.
Yeldham says the scene was in fact depicted in a less harrowing manner than originally planned, in part "out of respect for concerns of the families and out of respect for the culture." (Apparently, the filmmakers had some inkling of these issues after all.) She also said that the studio wanted to be sure the movie got a PG-13 rating so it could "reach out and touch audiences around the world of all ages."
Ahmad Kahn said he declined to remove his trousers for the scene. He and his father became concerned that the studio would use computers to make the sequence more graphic. Yeldham says that is not the case. But she acknowledged that a body double was used, in one case to show a boy undoing a pants buckle and in another to show pants being tugged slightly down. "We shot those for continuity," she says. "There was no nudity involved." Somehow, we suspect that the Mahmidzada family will be unpleasantly surprised to see that bit of continuity.
"This has been a labor of love for four years," Yeldham says. "We have taken great pains to do right by Khaled's beautiful book. And, none of us being of this culture or faith, we really, really carefully undertook every step of this process and tried to do the right thing by the kids and the families always. It's tough to be on the receiving [end] of fraudulent accusations when you know that you can hold your head high because you did do the right thing."
It's ironic. The Kite Runner, which takes children in peril as such a major theme, has ended up creating exactly the sort of situation lamented in its pages. (link)