VENICE – Giving the audience a new look onto the 9/11 attacks from a Muslim perspective, a Hollywood movie at Venice Film Festival is telling the story of a bright Pakistani immigrant, who is radicalized by US lifestyle.
"It's a human story of a young man from Pakistan who dreams of America, who loves it, who pursues the American dream and who has it all - Princeton, Wall Street - then suddenly the world changes and he is looked at as the 'other',” Mira Nair, director of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, told the BBC News Online.
"I think we've only seen it so far in South Asian films, but in terms of movies coming out of the USA it's unique.
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"Hopefully it's quite a bold film, an original film and a timely one too in terms of contemporary events - both politically and personally.”
The film tells the story of Changez Khan, a bright Pakistani immigrant in the United States, who evaluates his identity in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
It shows Khan, a Pakistani professor played by British actor Riz Ahmed, spreading anti-American sentiments among his students in Lahore.
He is also being spied on by the CIA for suspicion of links to the abduction of an expatriate American academic in Pakistan.
As the story develops, audience figure out that Khan’s radicalization began during his work on Wall Street as an investment analyst.
The movie shows that the Pakistani immigrant has learned on Wall Street how to be ruthless and fanatical.
As an investment analyst, he travels the world showing businesses how to maximize profit – with cut-throat layoffs.
The biased treatment of immigrants that followed the attacks has left Khan growing more resentful at the United States.
"He has to make a decision for himself - what does he do, where does he go, where does he belong? And that seesaw is something I know well as someone who has lived half my life in New York and the other in India," Nair said.
In all, the movie tells the audience that the nature of Khan’s radicalization has been dictated by America.
"You need to strike a delicate balance on how you treat such challenging material," Kate Hudson, an actress in the movie, said.
"In this case, I definitely needed to meet up with Mira Nair first and have her explain her vision for the film before I signed up for anything."
The movie is also praised for challenging the Western views of Pakistan as a hotbed of radicals and fundamentalists.
"I think of the book as a gift to me," director Nair said.
"A few years ago, I went to Pakistan for the first time. Growing up in modern India, we didn't go over the border readily and it proved to be a deeply moving experience.
"The city of Lahore was utterly unlike what Pakistan is often made out to be - a hotbed of drone attacks and corruption. Instead, I found the Venice of the east - a place of great refinement and beauty.
Nair, director of Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay, also remembers the difficulties her family faced in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks and the US invasion of Afghanistan.
"After 9/11, many people like my family who regarded New York as home, people who looked like us, suddenly became the 'other'. But what interested me about the story was the fact that we see all points of view,” she said.
"I think that what we show is that the world is complicated.
“I am as much steeped in the US as the Indian subcontinent and we portray the USA with a lot of intimacy, knowledge and a certain degree of love, so I hope there's balance in it,” she said.
"You know, America is a vibrant place of more than 300 million people and not all of them will endorse the stance the USA has taken since 9/11."
Yet, the director insisted that politics is not the driving force of her film.
"I have made a film that isn't just about the US or Pakistan, it is about what it means to be a human being and the decisions we have to make," she said."When Liev Schreiber and Riz Ahmed's characters are talking, it's obvious that both these men should and would be friends in different circumstances - the sadness is the world will not let them be."
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