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My Kite Is Tougher Than Your Kite
Posted Apr 2,2008

Kites fight in The Kite Runner, the movie about life in pre- and post-Taliban Afghanistan that has just been released on DVD. Fighting kites is a sport many Westerners have never heard of.
In a fight, fliers try to use their kite's line to cut the lines of competitors' kites. When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, they banned kites. Their reason: the hobby wasn't true to the precepts of Islam.
In a scene from the movie that's set in pre-Taliban Afghanistan, you can see a striking depiction of the sport. Childhood friends Hassan and Amir stand on a rooftop as their colorful kite and the kites of their rivals soar above the city. The filmmakers consulted with an Afghani kite fighting champion to make sure the flying strategies and techniques were accurate.
Kite fighting is now back in Afghanistan, and is also the rage in nations ranging from Korea to Brazil. In Thailand, kite flying became the national sport in 1921 with a "battle of the sexes" version. The "male" kite and "female" kite try to take each other down. In India, fliers use glass-coated kite lines to try to sever the strings of enemy kites. Kite dueling is popular among immigrant communities in the U.S., notes Elena Martínez, a folklorist with New York nonprofit City Lore. In New York City, she says, people from countries including Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan stage kite wars in public parks. And kite-fighting season in the U.S. has just begun.

-Ingrid Ahlgren

Posted by Marc Silver | Comments (3)
Filed Under: Film


Charlene Winfred
Apr 2, 2008 6PM #

My father, born in Peninsular Malaysia in 1938, often recounts his schoolboy kite-fighting days with glee. At 16, instead of studying for his GCE O Levels like they should have been doing, he and his buddies would sneak out of their homes and compete with the other town's boys and their kites.

My father had lost his father at age 7, and the family were very poor. But if there's one thing you can't take away from kids, it's that they find ways to play. It's amazing what people can make of what they have, even when they don't have much.

Marilyn Terrell
Apr 2, 2008 6PM #

What a fascinating subculture-- thanks Ingrid! I found some cool photos here, with guys taping their fingers before handling the glass-coated strings:

bainbridge island florist
Apr 2, 2008 6PM #

whoa, i have never thought that kites can be more than less innocent as they are.

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