Director Mira Nair touts 'Fundamentalist' 0
Director Mira Nair and actress Kate Hudson speaks onstage at "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" Press Conference during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 9, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images/AFP)
Exactly 11 years after Mira Nair's family survived the 9/11 attack in Manhattan while she desperately sought news of them during a Toronto filmfest visit, the Indo-American director was back in Toronto with a new film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. This is her first feature with its roots in that terrorist tragedy, but it is not specifically about the horrors of 9/11.
"In truth, the film was not directly inspired by 9/11," Nair told a TIFF press conference Sunday. Instead, it was a visit to Pakistan that moved her to make a film based on The Reluctant Fundamentalist, "a brilliant mind-game of a book" by Mohsin Hamid.
Like Hamid's bestseller, her film is designed to bridge the divide between the Muslim world and mainstream America. Kate Hudson and Kiefer Sutherland co-star with Riz Ahmed, a British actor with Pakistani heritage. Ahmed plays a Pakistani trying to make it in America despite racial profiling and prejudice. The book and film both also address misconceptions by Muslims, including the absurd notion that all Americans are "undercover assassins" waiting to strike.
"I just knew I had to do it," Nair said, adding that there is "an increasingly sad divide between the East and the West" that makes a fresh dialogue necessary.
Sutherland plays a Wall Street businessman. "For me personally, I had a very visceral and immediate reaction which was incredibly positive," Sutherland said of reading the script. Now, more than a decade after 9/11, people can and should examine the "collateral damage" of that event, Sutherland said.
"This is the first piece that I had read that addressed that. No one was having this discussion that Mira was promoting through this film. So many unfortunate things have happened because of great misunderstandings, whether they be religious, cultural or nationalistic. But this film addressed that. So, for me, it was a very exciting opportunity."
Hudson plays an American artist who has a love affair with Ahmed's character. "When I first read the script, I saw it as an enormous challenge for a filmmaker. Knowing that Mira was going to be at the helm of it, I knew that it was going to be extremely provocative and delicately woven. I just wanted to be a part of her being able to tell that story."
Nair said she was inspired "to find something that would be a bridge-maker" and that would end "this myopia that we have of the other side -- both sides!"