Spotlight on Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

Mira Nair proves once again that she is a visionary filmmaker of tremendous talent.

Her latest thriller ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ is remarkably prescient in light of the aftermath of the recent Boston Marathon bombing. Mira Nair’s (Monsoon Wedding) rise to international recognition as a filmmaker has been hard won. An alumnus of Harvard and Dehli Universities, her career took off in 1988 with her award winning movie Salaam Bombay! She believes her role in life is to tell stories about people like herself who live in two worlds.

When 9/11 occurred Mira Nair was in Toronto for TIFF The Toronto International Film Festival. It came as a deep shock to her to hear of the terrible events. NYC is home and her husband, son, family and friends were all there. It took a week for her to communicate with them and get back. She was shocked when she got there. She saw images she associated with “her part of the world; refugee camps, helicopters, a sense of war, a war zone, and this time in our own front yard”. “The deep disturbance was that people like us who had lived in NYC and made NYC our home, were suddenly ‘the other’ and that was shocking.” In NYC everyone and no one is foreign. Nair says it was a very complicated and painful time. Out of the grief, disillusionment and confusion was born her new film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which deals head on with the East/West issues of trust, respect and understanding.

Mira Nair has an intimate relationship with the Tribeca Film Festival being a filmmaker and New Yorker with much at stake during 9/11. She believes strongly in the need for East West dialogue, for mutual understanding and the banishment of stereotypes. The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff following the 9/11 attack on lower Manhattan and the TriBeCa neighborhood of NYC. Mira Nair recounts how this same event and her personal experiences as a result of 9/11 inspired her to make “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”. “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is groundbreaking.

The film premiered at the Venice International Film Fest, then TIFF and this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. This passionate discussion by Mira Nair about her film was made at the Venice premiere where Nair was accompanied by the film’s stars; Liv Schreiber (Bobby, the CIA operative), Kate Hudson (Erica, Riz’s lover) and Riz Ahmed (Changez, Ivy league Wall Street climber to the prodigal son), Kiefer Sutherland (Jim Cross, wall street banker).

Mira Nair says she felt she was the perfect person to tell a story of East and West, one that would encourage people to go beyond the stereotypes, change the way they think. She did not want it mired in religious aspect as the media portrays. She likens the religious fundamentalists of the East to the economic fundamentalist of the West. She was inspired by Ami Boghani (screenwriter), William Wheeler and Mohsid Hamid’s 2007 book and as a New Yorker, by the impact of 9/11 on herself and her family. The film’s budget was minimal although it would be shot on location in New York, Atlanta, Istanbul, Lahore and Delhi. Her father came from Lahore before partition of India and Pakistan. Nair was raised with the poetry, music and culture of Urdu and although she did not visit Pakistan until recently she immediately felt a deep connection with it.

Mira Nair criticizes Indian filmmakers for their obsession with the partition of India and Pakistan. She says that the culture of Pakistan is absolutely and unjustifiably absent in the eyes of the world. Modern Pakistan is nothing like the media’s portrayal of it as a country rife with beheadings, corruption and terrorism. She found that Mohsid Hamid’s book gave a perfect window into the real Pakistan. It presented a dialogue between East and West, some sense of bridge making that goes beyond the stereotype. Ultimately her protagonist (Riz Ahmed, Changez) rejects the fundamentalism in both worlds.

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist challenges its viewers to heal rifts of misunderstanding and to ask questions about our prejudices that come to us all too easily. Mira Nair’s film does this with a care and understanding that is in itself very loving – the viewer can’t help but identify and empathize with the film’s characters.”

It is precisely because the film overtly asks big and complex questions through the intimate conflicts of its characters that it so successfully rivets you to the screen. As a result of each of the character’s unwitting prejudice and misunderstanding, the threat of violence is palatable in almost every frame. “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is groundbreaking.

Read the review here.

More of Kate Hudson and Liev Schreiber in Venice here.

Moira Romano

Mira Nair on The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Kate Hudson

Liev Schreiber


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