The Venice Film Festival kicked off last night with the premiere of Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Indian-born filmmaker Nair, one of 21 female directors in the main selection – notable after a year when Cannes saw zero in competition – said yesterday she felt she was “put on this earth to tell stories about people like me who live between two worlds.”
Based on the book by Mohsin Hamid, the story follows a young Pakistani man’s rise from Lahore to Princeton to the height of Wall Street success pre-9/11. A brunette Kate Hudson plays lead Riz Ahmed’s love interest. They’re torn apart as Ahmed’s character, Changez, is treated with overt suspicion and brutality by American authorities post-9/11. Disillusioned by the American Dream, he heads back to Lahore and becomes a teacher while local radicals attempt to recruit him. Liev Schreiber plays a journalist/spook who finds an uneasy kinship with Changez while investigating the kidnapping of an American citizen.
Nair won the Golden Lion in 2001 for Monsoon Wedding and a few days later was in Toronto when planes crashed into the World Trade Center. With this film, she said, “I sought to bring some sense of bridge-making between America and the Muslim world that goes beyond myopia and ignorance.” Ahmed, easily the biggest takeaway from the movie, said “Viewers will react differently. I hope the film has respect for its audience.” The actor is known in Britain for films that include Michael Winterbottom’s The Road To Guantanamo and Trishna and the recent drama Ill Manors by English rapper Ben Drew (aka Plan B), but he has yet to break in the States. I’d expect that to change soon. At the opening night dinner, admirers positively swooned around him. Upping the “aw” factor, he mostly spent the evening tending to his date – his mother. (more…)