Det er et interessant fenomen som manifesterer seg i kulturmøtet mellom Vesten og muslimske land: Hendelser som i utgangspunktet var begrenset antar dimensjoner som sprenger «alle» grenser. De suger næring av imaginære tabu.
Filmatiseringen av Khaled Hosseinis bok «Drageløperen» fra 2003 ser ut til å falle inn i samme mønster.
Det inngår en voldtektscene i filmen. Det tok lang tid før cast-ansvarlig fant de rette guttene. Hun måtte dra til Kabul for å finne dem. Faren fikk en kopi av manus og var til stede på ett av de to opptakene av voldtekten. Den er heller ikke spesielt eksplisitt: Hovedpersonen tar av seg et belte, det høres skrik og det faller en bloddråpe. Faren hadde ingen innvending før og under innspillingen. Men ryktet om filmen har gjort at denne scenen har antatt sitt eget liv, før filmen er vist.
Det er ett av kjennetegnene ved de nye tabuer: nesten ingen har sett det de reagerer på. Men det gjør det enda lettere å bli provosert: man kan overlate det til fantasien, og den setter som kjent ikke grenser.
Utgangspunktet i filmen er historien om en pashtun-gutt (overklassen) oig hazarene (undderklassen), og det er selvfølgelig hazara-gutten som voldtas. Allah skal vite at dette ikke bare er noe som bare foregår på film. Men det at det fremstilles på lerretet oppleves muligens som en krenkelse i seg selv? Noe a la Åsne Seiersteds «Bokhandeleren». For det er fra hazarene man frykter trusler og hevn.
Paramount Pictures, som lager filmen, tok risikoen alvorlig nok til å spørre flere eksperter og hyre en eks-CIA-mann som dro til Afghanistan og flere andre land for å undersøke. Det sies at hans rapport i seg selv kunne vært utgangspunkt for en film.
Paramount har valgt å fly familien ut og bosette den i Forente Arabiske Emirater, hvor de vil betale for skolegang og underhold for famlien til han er myndig.
Det er interessant at noen av ekspertene nevner muligheten av en ny «karikaturstrid» rundt filmen. Dvs. man antisiperer nå oppstandelse. Men hvis begge parter antisiperer kan det lett bli selvoppfyllende profetier.
In an effort to prevent not only a public-relations disaster but also possible violence, studio lawyers and marketing bosses have employed a stranger-than-fiction team of consultants. In August they sent a retired Central Intelligence Agency counterterrorism operative in the region to Kabul to assess the dangers facing the child actors. And on Sunday a Washington-based political adviser flew to the United Arab Emirates to arrange a safe haven for the boys and their relatives.
«If we’re being overly cautious, that’s O.K.,» Karen Magid, a lawyer for Paramount, said. «We’re in uncharted territory.»
In interviews, more than a dozen people involved in the studio’s response described grappling with vexing questions: testing the limits of corporate responsibility, wondering who was exploiting whom and pondering the price of on-screen authenticity.
The Taliban destroyed nearly all movie theaters in Afghanistan, but pirated DVDs often arrive soon after a major film’s release in the West. As a result, Paramount Vantage, the art-house and specialty label of Paramount Pictures, has pushed back the release of the $18 million movie by six weeks, to Dec. 14, when the young stars’ school year will have ended.
In January in Afghanistan, DVDs of «Kabul Express» — an Indian film in which a character hurls insults at Hazara — led to protests, government denunciations and calls for the execution of the offending actor, who fled the country.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the «Kite Runner» actor who plays Hassan, Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada, 12, told reporters at that time that he feared for his life because his fellow Hazara might feel humiliated by his rape scene. His father said he himself was misled by the film’s producers, insisting that they never told him of the scene until it was about to be shot and that they had promised to cut it.
Hangama Anwari, the child-rights commissioner for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said on Monday that she had urged Paramount’s counterterrorism consultant to get Ahmad Khan out of the country, at least until after the movie is released. «They should not play around with the lives and security of people,» she said of the filmmakers. «The Hazara people will take it as an insult.»
Regissøren Marc Forster sier han laget filmen for å gi stemme til de undertrykte. Men noen av ofrene orker ikke eller vil ikke se overgrepene fremstilt på film. Eller er det bare innbilning at de reagerer? Er det en innbilt frykt, som springer ut av at atmosfæren i Afghanistan er blitt annerledes det siste året?
Forster emphasized that casting Afghan boys did not seem risky at the time; local filmmakers even encouraged him, he said: «You really felt it was safe there, a democratic process was happening, and stability, and a new beginning.»
Dowd and E. Bennett Walsh, a producer, said they met in Kabul with Ahmad Khan’s father, Ahmad Jaan Mahmoodzada, and told him that his son’s character was the victim of a «vicious sexual assault.» Mahmoodzada seemed unmoved, they said, remarking that «bad things happen» in movies as in life. The boy, they continued, did not receive a script until a Dari translation was available on the set in western China. The rape scene was rehearsed twice, they said, once with the father present.
On Tuesday the elder Mahmoodzada, reached by cellphone, rejected this account, and said he never learned the rape was a plot point until the scene was about to be shot. He also said his son never received a script.
Forster said that during rehearsals he considered including a shot of Hassan’s pants being pulled down, exposing his backside, and that neither Ahmad Khan nor his father objected. But the morning the scene was to be filmed, Forster found the boy in tears. Ahmad Khan said he did not want to be shown nude, Forster agreed to skip that shot, and the boy went ahead with the rape scene. Mahmoodzada confirmed this.
In the final version of the film, the rape is conveyed impressionistically, with the unstrapping of a belt, the victim’s cries and a drop of blood.
The filmmakers said they were surprised when Ahmad Khan and his father told The Sunday Times of London in January that they feared for their lives. Walsh and Rebecca Yeldham, another producer, flew to Kabul to learn more in February.
n late July, with violence worsening in Kabul, studio executives looked for experts who could help them chart a safe course. Aided by lobbyists for Viacom, Paramount’s parent company, they found John Kiriakou, the retired CIA operative with experience in the region, and had him conduct interviews in Washington and Kabul.
«They wanted to do the right thing, but they wanted to understand what the right thing was,» Kiriakou said.
There was one absolute: «Nothing will be done if it puts any kid at risk,» Megan Colligan, head of marketing at Paramount Vantage, said.
Kiriakou’s briefing, which he reprised in a telephone interview, could make a pretty good movie by itself. A specialist on Islam at the State Department nearly wept envisioning a «Danish-cartoons situation,» Kiriakou said. An Afghan literature professor, he added, said Paramount was «willing to burn an already scorched nation for a fistful of dollars.» The head of an Afghan political party said the movie would energize the Taliban. Nearly everyone Kiriakou met said that the boys had to be removed from Afghanistan for their safety. And a Hazara member of Parliament warned that Pashtun and Hazara «would be killing each other every night» in response to the film’s depiction of them. None of the interviewees had seen the movie.
Another consultant, whom Paramount did not identify, gave a less bleak assessment, but Colligan said the studio was taking no chances. «The only thing you get people to agree on is that the place is getting messier every single day,» she said.