May 22, 2008 / 4:35 PM / in 9 years

Director Egoyan challenges web "cliche"

<p>Director Atom Egoyan attends a news conference for the film "Adoration" at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 22, 2008. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Who said the Web was worldwide? Not director Atom Egoyan, whose new film “Adoration” explores just how confining cyberspace can be when a teenager confronts a culture clash that has damaged him and his family.

“Adoration” premiered on Thursday at the Cannes film festival, and following a press screening, Egoyan challenged the notion that the World Wide Web has fostered a global community.

“That’s the cliche of the Internet, but the reality is that it exists in small interest groups,” Egoyan told reporters.

In “Adoration,” the key character is a Toronto teenager named Simon who confesses to a small Web chat room containing only his friends that his Middle-Eastern father planted a bomb in the suitcase of his Canadian mother, who was pregnant with Simon at the time, as she boarded a plane to Israel.

The bomb was discovered, and no one was hurt. But Simon’s confession touches off a firestorm of controversy on the Web and fuels a wide range of reactions -- from sympathy to empathy and from love to hate.

But Egoyan does not see the response as coming from a singular collection of people all connected by the Web, but rather as reactions by different groups of Web users who have happened onto a small piece of information on the Internet.

“These are ultimately really closed communities that are responding to each other. It’s just drowned out by kind of a global noise,” Egoyan said.

Moreover, the Web is just one part of a multi-layered story in “Adoration” that ultimately tells of one teenager coming to a new understanding of himself, as well as his family’s dealing with the pain and loss of Simon’s mother and father who come from vastly different worlds.

EAST MEETS WEST

Egoyan’s background lends credibility to the idea that he is well-suited to talking about growing up across cultural boundaries. His parents are Armenian, he was born in Egypt, raised in Canada, where he still makes his home.

“Adoration” is a nod to all sorts of symbols people use as ways to identify themselves and, ultimately, as weapons to exert control over others.

Simon, who confesses his story in the chat room after his French teacher reads the tale of his parents from an old news clipping, finds himself steeped in the Christian religion symbolized by a Nativity scene his uncle, who is now raising Simon, sets up at Christmas.

Simon and his Uncle Tom’s beliefs are challenged by a Middle-Eastern woman wearing a burqa who happens by their suburban home one evening and returns later to further place herself into their lives.

But as Egoyan sees it, he was not so much trying to talk about the clash of Eastern and Western cultures as much how that conflict exists in modern life for all the world’s people and, in particular, how it has impacted Simon and his family.

“We’re all interconnected. These stories all reverberate in ways we cannot understand at times,” he said. “You have three characters who were all using these props of religions or these ancient traditions. That’s exactly what they’ve become in a way. They’ve become props. They’ve been cut off from their original intentions and are being used for other purposes.”

For Simon and for most people, the wielding of those props people claim to adore -- as Egoyan puts it -- can have damaging consequences.

Editing by James Mackenzie

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