Venice Opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist Takes On Culture Clash
Indian-born filmmaker Mira Nair said that 9/11 formed part of the inspiration for her latest film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which kicked off the Venice Film Festival Wednesday evening. Just days before the attacks, Nair won the festival's top prize, the Golden Lion, for her much praised Monsoon Wedding and she left the fabled Italian city for the Toronto International Film Festival to promote the film when the attacks happened. Like other New York residents, she was stranded in the Canadian city following the tragic event, taking her a week to get back to NYC and her husband and son. When she did make it back, she felt an "otherness" in the post-9/11 period, a theme she explores in her latest feature.
"It was quite shocking when I got back because it felt like images I had seen in my part of the world, refugee camps, helicopters, a sense of war, a war zone, and it was in our backyard," she said in Venice Wednesday as reported by A.P. "And so suddenly, (New York) became a place where people who looked like us were 'the other.' And that was painful, and that was also part of the inspiration to try to make this film."
Based on the novel by Mohsin Hamid, British-born musician and actor Riz Ahmed plays Changez a gifted financial analyst whose allegiance to America is questioned following the 9/11 attacks. Changez travels to the Pakistani city of Lahore re-connecting with his routes. Liev Schreiber plays a journalist who interviews him in Lahore as a kidnapping crisis rages. Kate Hudson plays his girlfriend and Kiefer Sutherland plays his former Wall Street mentor in NYC flashback scenes.
"[The novel is] essentially a dialogue between East and West," Nair said in Venice. ""We all know there has been an enormous schism, a wall between East and West, since, in this last decade. So I sought very much in the dialogue between America and the Islamic world in The Reluctant Fundamentalist to really bring some sense of bridge-making, some sense of healing, a sense of community that goes beyond the stereotypes, goes beyond the myopia, goes beyond the ignorance."