Venice opens with 9/11 film, aims to build bridges

Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:53pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - The Venice film festival opens on Wednesday with "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", based on a novel of the same name which traces a young Pakistani's journey from Wall Street high flyer to suspected Islamist radical targeted by American intelligence.

The adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's 2007 novel was directed by Mira Nair, an Indian who lives in New York where she said attitudes towards her and others from Asia quickly changed following the 9/11 attacks.

"Suddenly it became a place where people who look like us became 'the other' and that was painful, and that was also part of the inspiration to make this film," she told reporters after a press screening of the movie.

"It was a very complicated and painful time," added Nair, who won the Golden Lion for best picture at the Venice film festival in 2001 with "Monsoon Wedding."

The film-maker said she felt well placed to portray the story of Changez, a young Pakistani played by British actor Riz Ahmed who is tipped for the top in the world of high finance before the events of September 2001 turn his world upside down.

Ostracized and drawing suspicion at every turn, he returns to Pakistan to teach in Lahore. There he is approached by a radical Islamist cell that wants him to join its violent campaign against Western interests.

Ahmed, who also starred in the controversial suicide bomber comedy "Four Lions", said he shared some of Changez's frustrations. "We are to some extent defined by the labels that are slung around our neck," he told a news conference.

In a tense interview with an American reporter (Liev Schreiber) that runs throughout the two-hour movie, the viewer is left to guess what path Changez chooses and what, ultimately, the motives of both men are.   Continued...

U.S. actress Kate Hudson signs autographs as she arrives for the red carpet of the movie "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" at the 69th Venice Film Festival August 29, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi