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Mira Nair’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ To Open The Venice Film Festival

Mira Nair's 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' To Open The Venice Film Festival

…and so it begins. With “The Dark Knight Rises” effectively marking the end of the summer movie going season — at least in terms of major blockbusters — we can now start casting a harder eye on the fall festival season. And while TIFF is expected to announce their first batch of titles this week, Venice is out of the gate ahead of them, revealing their opening movie for 69th annual shindig in Italy.

Well, it’s not Terrence Malick, Paul Thomas Anderson or Brian De Palma as has been speculated for the past few months, but instead its another filmmaker who has already scored some success in Venice. Mira Nair — who won the screenplay award in 1991 for “Mississippi Masala,” the Golden Lion in 2001 for “Monsoon Wedding” and the UNESCO award for her short in the omnibus “11’9″01 September 11” — will unveil her latest, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”

This news isn’t exactly a surprise, as it was known since the spring that the film was likely to nab that slot, but it does bring both the star power and dramatic weight you expect from festival film. Starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Martin Donovan, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Haluk Bilginer and Meesha Shafi, the film follows Changez Khan, a Pakistani professor and journalist working in the United States, whose life is altered by the events of 9/11. Here’s the full synopsis:

Student demonstrations are raging in Lahore, as young Pakistani professor Changez Khan and a journalist, Bobby Lincoln, share a cup of tea and conversation. Princeton-educated Changez tells Lincoln of his past as a brilliant business analyst on Wall Street. He talks of the glittering future that lay before him and the beautiful and sophisticated Erica whom he was set to share that future with.

But then 9/11 changes everything. Attitudes shift dramatically – his very name and face rendering him suspect. Returning to his homeland and the family to whom he is very close, he takes up a post as lecturer at the local university, a hotbed of radicalism and the new militant academia.

The collegial pretense of the meeting in a Lahore teahouse, between Lincoln and Changez, slowly gives way to why the unlikely pair has gathered on a summer day — another professor has been kidnapped by extremists, and the clock is ticking toward a deadline for his execution. Changez’s family is being harassed and is in real danger. Bobby is there to listen, with an agenda of his own. As it is revealed that Lincoln is in the lions’ den with the CIA, we also learn that he has a personal stake in the immediate crisis at hand. Taking us through the culturally rich and beguiling worlds of New York, Lahore and Istanbul The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an exploration of prejudice and the phenomenon of globalization that is both exhilirating and deeply unsettling.

We’re over a decade since the events of 9/11, and Nair herself has already briefly touched upon the topic in film, so it will be interesting to see what more she has to say here. Opening films at a fest can be a mixed bag, but Venice has mostly been strong over the past five years with George Clooney‘s “Ides Of March,” Darren Aronofsky‘s “Black Swan,” Giuseppe Tornatore‘s “Baarìa – La porta del vento,” Coen BrothersBurn After Reading” and Joe Wright‘s “Atonement” kicking things off.

The Venice Film Festival runs from August 29th – September 8th.

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