A fiction feature by Kabul-born Canadian filmmaker Tarique Qayumi, Black Kite, made with significant Indian inputs, is among the more striking titles that the 42nd International Film Festival (TIFF has assembled for its Contemporary World Cinema section. It tells the story of a kite-maker's son born during the reign of King Zahir Shah, who mandated education for all children. Later in his life, the emergence of the Taliban led to kite-flying being outlawed, but the protagonist, to keep the family legacy alive for himself and his daughter, defies the diktat. His indomitable spirit - and his dreams - are tied to the kites soaring in the sky visually captured through the means of innovative animation. The post-production of Black Kite, which blends live action, archival footage and animated passages to highlight the political and social upheavals that Afghanistan has witnessed over the decades, was done in Mumbai. "We did not have the resources in Kabul for the final edit of the film," says Qayumi, who arrived in Canada in the early 1980s at the age of eight and later moved to Los Angeles to study film. Today, he works out of Vancouver. His newest film captures the impact of seismic historical shifts on a single family. As the country's long-time national sport is proscribed, the hero carries on regardless, clandestinely flying his kites on moonless nights. He pays a heavy price for his rebellion. The music for Black Kite has been scored by the English and Indian composer duo of Benedict Taylor (who has solo credit in another film in this year's TIFF - The Hungry) and Naren Chandavarkar.
The composing pair has over the years worked on Indian films such as Newton, Gurgaon, Killa and The Ship of Theseus. "I zeroed in on Benedict and Naren after considering hundreds of musicians," says Qayumi. "We wanted Afghan influences to be reflected in the score, but we did not want any Mickey Mouse-ing of the rhythms." He found the duo through the film's Vancouver-based, Indian-born animation director Kunal Sen, the writer-director reveals. "In a country ravaged by 30 years of war, I believe that when you tell stories, you can heal," says Qayumi. The filmmaker and his wife Tajana Prka, the producer of Black Kite, lived and worked in Kabul from 2011 to 2015, making the country's first docu-dramas for a television studio there. The couple also produced episodes of Sesame Street Afghanistan. "When our stint in Afghanistan drew to a close, we decided that we could not leave without telling a story of our own. We had this idea in mind for a while and I wrote the script in three weeks." The biggest challenge of filming in Afghanistan was the constant fear of violence. "A bomb explosions could take place at any time, and did, so we had to keep moving constantly. We faced many alarming situations during the shoot," says Qayumi. "The post-Taliban children in Afghanistan," he says, "do not have a sense of history. I hope they relate to Black Kite and embrace it." When the Taliban came in, 80 per cent of the Afghan population was under the age of 25, he points out. "Afghanistan is a young nation," he adds.
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