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'Kite Runner' Boys Leave Afghanistan

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December 5, 2007 07:46 AM EST | AP

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Four boy actors in the movie "The Kite Runner" have left Afghanistan out of concern they could be ostracized or subjected to violence because of a rape scene in the movie, a film executive said.

"The Kite Runner," which had its world premiere on Tuesday in Hollywood, is based on the 2003 best-selling novel by Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini. In the story, the main character witnesses the rape of his friend but does nothing to stop it.

Although the film is not scheduled for release in Afghanistan, there are concerns that pirated DVDs could reach Kabul and some residents might react violently to the rape scene.

The four boys, each accompanied by a relative, left Afghanistan and arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Friday, said Megan Colligan, executive vice president of marketing for Paramount Vantage, which is releasing the film.

Studio executives felt they should get the boys out of the country before "The Kite Runner" opens Dec. 14 in the United States, Colligan said.

"We knew they were well, but they were anxious about what would happen when the film came out," Colligan said. "We were told that what really might trigger any sort of reaction would be pirated copies of the film entering the country, which could set off widespread rumors about the content."

In September, the father of one of the boys told The Associated Press he had asked that the rape scene be cut from the film. Ahmad Jaan Mahmidzada said he had been assured it would not be included.

But the film's producers, Bennett Walsh and Rebecca Yeldham, said they were surprised by the Mahmidzada's comments at the time, adding that they had already spoken with the families of the actors and addressed their concerns about the scene.

"The Kite Runner," originally scheduled for Nov. 2 release, was delayed six weeks so that the boy actors could leave Kabul.

"The reason the decision was made was for the safety of the boys. Everything else is secondary to that," actor Khalid Abdalla said at the premiere Tuesday in Los Angeles. "Clearly there is a controversy, but I think it's overblown, and I think it needed time to rest a little bit."

Shaun Toub, another actor, said the boys were very excited about "The Kite Runner" during the filming, but violence and instability have since escalated in the country.

"Unfortunately things have deteriorated over there, so it has been a very awkward position for us," Toub said.

"At the same time, we hope that this film will shed some light on a country that needs it so badly, because these guys have been through so much. And, amazing enough, you talk to them, they're still so optimistic that tomorrow will be better."

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On the Net:

Movie site: http://www.kiterunnermovie.com