Against oppression, change, and seismic political shifts,
a father and his daughter find solace in the seemingly clandestine act of kite flying.
Black Kite premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017.
“The brutal rule of the Taliban still casts a pall over most Westerners' perception of Afghanistan. That Tarique Qayumi's new film masterfully recognizes a richer and vastly more complicated history is more than enough to strongly recommend it. But what really makes Black Kite shine is the manner in which the filmmakers have dramatized seismic political shifts.
Black Kite examines the impact of history on one family: how they at once quietly defy it and get swept up in it. The film opens with some beautifully assembled archivalfootage detailing Zahir Shah's attempts to modernize the country, including mandating public education for children. Arian, the son of a kite maker (kiting is a long-time national sport), will be the first in his family to attend school. But Arian is a daydreamer and spends far more time thinking about making kites with his father than studying. As the years speed past, reforms are repealed and governments grow increasingly oppressive until Arian's obsession is finally outlawed.
Attempting to lift the spirits of his young daughter Seema, Arian (played as an adult by Haji Gul, one of the country's most revered actors) tells her a parable about kites. After much pleading, he finally agrees to let Seema try it (prior to the ban it was usually restricted to men) but only when the moonlight is faintest.
The pair's clandestine hobby soon becomes a kind of resistance, culminating in a bravura and magical sequence. Charged with some fine performances, poignant details, and impassioned neorealist storytelling, Black Kite is a well-timed reminder that resistance begins at home.”
- Steve Gravestock
Animation Director: Kunal Sen
Agency: Good Bad Habits Inc.
Writer / Director: Tarique Qayumi
Producer: Tajana Prka
Executive Producer: Agata Del Sorbo and Engineer Latif Hamedi
Co-Producer: Samir Nasim
Associate Producer: Wais Amiree
Assistant Producer: Masuod Fanayee
Original Score: Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor
When Tarique and Tajana first approached us to create the animation sequences for Black Kite, we knew right away that this project was going to be extremely interesting and challenging in a variety of ways.
“One of the first conversations we had was how the animation would "fit" into the world of the film, and this was a topic that we revisited and discussed all the way till the end. This was always going to be a challenge, as the film is set in an extremely real and gritty environment. The animation that we were about to create was to be hand-made and stylized. How would these two cinematic languages sit side by side? What if the animation pulled the viewer out of the bubble?
The script demanded that the animation reveal the inner thoughts, aspirations, dreams and fears of Aryan, the protagonist of the film. We decided early on to stay away from character animation as much as possible, and to depict the emotions that Aryan felt in the form and movement of a kite. We designed two distinct tonal worlds- a warm golden orange world that was reminiscent of heaven, and a dark and cold blue world that was dangerous, lonely and menacing. The distinct geographic backdrop of Kabul- a city in the valley of a towering mountain range was extremely iconic, and we researched the architecture and terrain extensively before starting work on the artwork.
The kites that were designed for the animation were based on traditional Afghani kite designs which have a distinct curve on the top. We digitally re-created the kites in a way that we could make them "act" in a variety of different emotions. We wanted the viewer to feel the rustle of the kite paper, the tension of the bamboo frame as well as the weightless feeling of flying high up in the sky. The string that connects the kite was crucial to portray accurately, as the taut or loose nature of it told us whether the kite was flying freely or being pulled. The transitions between the live action scenes and the animation were planned out in advance, where animated elements would weave their way in and out of the live action footage. This was a crucial solution in how the two distinct mediums interacted with one another during the course of the film.
Looking back on our experience of working on the animation for Black Kite, we are proud to be a part of such a powerful and compelling film.”
Tarique Qayumi was born in Afghanistan and came to Canada as a refugee in 1983.
He attended undergrad at the school of creative writing at the University of British Columbia and graduate school at UCLA, where he completed his Screenwriting MFA and developed a strong interest in directing.
After graduating in 2010, Qayumi was approached by TOLO TV, the largest television station in Afghanistan, to direct a docudrama series. Driven by two objectives, to get in touch with his roots and to create Afghan-centered stories, Qayumi made the difficult decision to return to Afghanistan
While in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2015 he wrote, directed and produced Truth Unveiled, a sixteen part half-hour docudrama series; Defenders, a six-hour drama miniseries; as well as Afghan version of Sesame Street, season two and three. During this time, he also directed his first feature Targeting in Los Angeles, a psychological-thriller about a female American soldier who returns home from war.
Upon returning to Vancouver, Tarique was one of five chosen from across Canada for the NSI Corus Diverse TV Directing Program.
Black Kite, a historical drama that intermixes animation, documentary, and live action is his second feature. A tale of one man's love of kite flying, told over five decades of political turmoil in Kabul. Qayumi wrote, directed, edited, and shot the film while living there. He received both a grant from Canada Council for the Arts and as well the British Columbia Council for the Arts for Black Kite.