Directors in the Oscar race

For a director who made his mark chronicling the insular worlds of rural Georgia in “Monster’s Ball” and literary Britain in “Finding Neverland,” Swiss-German Forster had to go big to make “The Kite Runner.”

Based on Khaled Hosseini’s novel, the film’s narrative stretches across three decades and nearly as many continents, requiring Forster to rebuild Afghani capital Kabul on location in China’s remote Xinjiang province, recruit nonprofessional actors in Kabul and Iran (nearly sparking an international incident in the process), and to film sequences entirely in Dari, a language the director does not speak.

This would be a tall order for a filmmaker of any background, especially one on a limited budget. “It was intimidating at first,” he admits. “So I always tried to think of it as an intimate epic, with these characters at the center and all the history as backdrop.”

Going big, in other words, by thinking small.

GENESIS: “There was incredible pressure from the beginning, making a film out of a book that sold 8 million copies. So I decided from the start that you can’t try to make a totally faithful literary adaptation. You have to just try to capture the spirit and create a companion piece to the novel, so that it stands on its own feet.”

VISION: “The goal was to capture the colors and richness of ’70s Kabul, and to make people understand that at the time, it really was the Paris of the East. And then when you cut to the Taliban in 2000, using the smaller color palette, the absence of trees, to show the deterioration of 30 years of war.”

CHALLENGES: “Budgetarily, we were limited, but you have to get across all these different decades and locations. So there are compromises you have to make. We ended up having to shoot one of the San Francisco scenes in Beijing.”

MAGIC: “We had a screening in D.C. for the Afghani ambassador and a lot of expatriates who lived there in the ’70s, and they all thought the director must be Afghani. They felt it was a love letter to Afghanistan.”

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