Monday, November 11, 2013
So many Americans see the Middle East/Western conflict in black and white terms and often focus on what makes people different than what there is in common. But the reality is far more complex, especially on the personal level. Indian-born film director Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012) follows the career of the ambitious, intelligent, Princeton-educated Pakistani Changez (played very ably by Riz Ahmed) as he storms the halls of Wall Street as an up-and-coming analyst for a hedge fund, whose world spirals out of control following 9-11 and the unraveling of a love affair with a New York photographer that forces him to return to Pakistan. Caught up in the political turmoil of his region and campus, a reporter (played by Liev Schreiber) seeks him out to find important information, but Changez is determined to tell his story. There are so many ways to view this movie, one as an instructive tale of American ignorance and arrogance and the driving away of potentially sympathetic allies. Of simple-minded racism and prejudice in a changing world at home and abroad. One might say that culture never really leaves an individual and that people will always return to their roots. One might see how injustice, mistreatment, and emotional pain can wreck an individual. I know that one scene where Changez's girlfriend (played by Kate Hudson) does something that cuts him to the core affected me deeply: I could imagine myself walking into a situation where my personal life is displayed to others and being mortified, angry, and even retaliatory. Kiefer Sutherland is also good as Riz's Ameican mentor and boss. I think the hedge fund chopping up failing companies and heartlessly puting workers on the street is a stand-in for how some feel about drone strikes or Western incursions and such in the Middle East. A sense of impotance. Still, this is ultimately about the fact that some people, despite homegrown pressures, refuse to simply follow paths chosen for them, though the price can be high. It is a human story, well told.