This fall’s festival calendar–coinciding with the final months of the U.S. Presidential Election–just got an extra dose of politicized media with the announcement that Mira Nair’s latest film, an adaptation of the bestseller “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” would open the Venice Film Festival, and will likely be spotted in Toronto for its North American premiere. (On Twitter over the weekend, Toronto’s Noah Cowan championed the film.) But the “Fundamentalist” is a contentious choice to kick-start the fall festivals, sure to draw fire from American conservatives.
Starring Kate Hudson, Liev Schrieber and Riz Admed (“The Road to Guantanamo,” “Four Lions”) as the central character, the film follows a young Pakistani man chasing corporate success on Wall Street, embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family’s homeland.
The National Review called the book on which the film is based “anti-American agitprop clumsily masquerading as a work of art.”
According to reports, the book’s author Mohsid Hamid was asked on tours why he had written an anti-American novel, but he calls it a classic immigrant tale.
“The traditional immigrant novel is about coming to America,” he explained. “I wanted to do the 21st-century polarity when the magnet switches and pushes them away. At its core, this is a story of someone who is in love with America, in love with an American woman, who finds he has to leave. It’s a tragic love story. The book doesn’t try to say America is bad, it’s how someone can be disillusioned with America.”
It will be interesting to see how Mira Nair handles the delicate, highly loaded “smile” that is central to the novel.
While on a business trip to Manila, the protagonist turns on the television in his hotel room and sees the Twin Towers fall. “I stared as one — and then the other — of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. And then I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased.”
According to the New York Times book review, Hamid, who himself attended Princeton and worked in corporate America, “aptly captures the ethos and hypocrisies of the Ivy League meritocracy,” which the novel, the Times review suggests, may be called “fundamentalists” as much as Muslim ideologues.