Wednesday, August 29, 2012

LIVE! From the 69th Venice Film Festival - The Reluctant Fundamentalist


Moshin Hamid, Riz Ahmed, Mira Nair, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber
(Venice, Italy) "I believe I have been put on this earth to tell stories of people like me who come from two worlds... who live between worlds," said Mira Nair, director of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which opened the 69th Venice International Film Festival, and is based on the novel by Mohsin Hamid, who is also here in Venice. Nair spoke about the enormous schism that has developed over the last decade between the East and the West, and hopes the film will be a bridge to understanding better how the world changed dramatically on 9/11. As an Indian who lives in New York City, Nair has a unique voice that requires attention.

Kate Hudson
Starring Riz Ahmed (Changez), Kiefer Sutherland (Jim Cross), Kate Hudson (Erica) and Liev Schreiber (Bobby Lincoln), the film starts with the dramatic kidnapping of an American professor in Pakistan, intercut with the family of Changez listening to powerful devotional Sufi music. The music was sung by a family of renowned Pakistani Qawwali singers, led by brothers Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammed, from Karachi. I have heard them sing this music live here in Venice during the International Music Festival in 2010, and it gave me goosebumps -- it is uplifting, intense and other-worldly -- like an ethereal telephone call to the heavens.

In my opinion, the film succeeds beautifully, but I, too, live between worlds, and have direct, personal experience with just how badly the United States government can behave overseas. "They" hate "us" because a dark element in the US government -- unknown to most American citizens -- deliberately tries to re-shape other countries the way "we" want them to be, using the most insidious methods imaginable. It doesn't work; it only enrages the rest of the planet; but this dark element can't seem to understand there is another way to go about change.

In 2007, Mohsin Hamid wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post entitled, Why do They Hate US? Hamid was born in Pakistan, but moved to the United States at the age of three after his father was accepted into a PhD program at Stanford. Here's an excerpt:
ROOTS OF RAGE

'Why Do They Hate Us?'




By Mohsin Hamid
Sunday, July 22, 2007
...The residue of U.S. foreign policy coats much of the world. It is the other part of the answer to the question, "Why do they hate us?" Simply because America has -- often for what seemed good reasons at the time -- intervened to shape the destinies of other countries and then, as a nation, walked away.

... Americans need to educate themselves, from elementary school onward, about what their country has done abroad. And they need to play a more active role in ensuring that what the United States does abroad is not merely in keeping with a foreign policy elite's sense of realpolitik but also with the American public's own sense of American values. 


Mira Nair and Mohsin Hamid seem to genuinely love the United States of America, as I do myself -- I spoke quite passionately about this to Kyle Scott, the US Consul General from Milan when I met him at the US Pavilion at the International Architecture Festival on Monday. We love the United States and the freedom, joy and opportunities that abound, and anybody who feels that way is an ally, not an enemy -- which is why it is peculiar that the foreign policy is so warped. More from the article:

...All of which leads us to another, perhaps more fruitful question that Americans ought to consider: "Why do they love us?" People abroad admire Americans not because they back foreign dictators but because they believe that all men and all women are created equal. That concept cannot stop at the borders of the United States. It is a concept far greater than any one nation, no matter how great that nation is. For America to be true to itself, its people must broaden their belief in equality to include the men and women of the world. 

The challenge that the United States faces today boils down to a choice. It can insist on its primacy as a superpower, or it can accept the universality of its values. If it chooses the former, it will heighten the resentment of foreigners and increase the likelihood of visiting disaster upon distant populations -- and vice versa. If it chooses the latter, it will discover something it appears to have forgotten: that the world is full of potential allies.

Kate Hudson and Riz Ahmed
From Xan Brooks' review in the Guardian:

Venice film festival opens with 9/11 drama The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Director Mira Nair, who lives in New York, hopes American audiences will see it as a film made by people who love the US

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – directed by Mira Nair from the novel by Mohsin Hamid – is a globalised rites-of-passage tale, torn between two worlds, pointed towards disaster, and damning capitalism and terrorism with the same brush. Yet while the material may be contentious, its director insisted that the film be viewed as a dialogue rather than a confrontation.

Mira Nair
"I hope American audiences receive it as it was intended – as a film made by people who understand what it is to love America," Nair said. "I hope they see it as a conversation between two cultures that goes beyond the prejudices that contaminate us. I really believe, unlike George W Bush, that it's not a case of 'You're either with us or against us'. There is a third way. There is common ground."

Neither Mira Nair or Mohsin Hamid are dummies. They were not born in the United States, but they have lived there long enough to offer valuable insight. Their skin is not white and their names are exotic, but they have a point of view that needs to be heard in the West.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. All of which leads us to another, perhaps more fruitful question that Americans ought to consider: "Why do they love us?" People abroad admire Americans not because they back foreign dictators but because they believe that all men and all women are created equal. That concept cannot stop at the borders of the United States. It is a concept far greater than any one nation, no matter how great that nation is. For America to be true to itself, its people must broaden their belief in equality to include the men and women of the world.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...