×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mira Nair recalls ‘Reluctant’ journey

Opener brings helmer back to Lido 11 years after 9/11

When the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack hit the U.S., Mira Nair was on a plane to Toronto having won the Venice Golden Lion for “Monsoon Wedding” two days earlier.

Back on the Lido almost 11 years later with fest opener “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” a political thriller tackling complex moral and human issues springing from the attacks on the Twin Towers, the helmer known for bridging East and West recalls her shock.

India-born Nair said, “I live in Manhattan; so my first thoughts were for my family and friends. I wondered: is everyone safe?”

Not surprisingly, adapting Mohsin Hamid’s bestseller about a young Pakistani man pursuing the American dream on Wall Street who becomes disenchanted with the U.S. and somewhat sympathetic with Islamic terrorism, posed big challenges.

Narratively for “Fundamentalist,” the tough task was to tread a fine line as protag Changez Khan, played by Riz Ahmed, goes through personal changes prompted by the attacks, the politics and war that followed, and also by his money-manic Wall Street work environment.

“What I always wanted to do was make the audience walk a tightrope with Changez,” Nair said. “In the last decade the politics of the world have been driven so hard with spin, myopia, and ignorance to create absolute viewpoints. I wanted to humanize political questions through a living, breathing, complicated contradictory character. That’s the way to reach people way beyond politics.”

As for how to make the film resonate with worldwide auds, Nair said she specifically thought of her 20-year-old son “who is worldly and who is of many worlds.”

“I was thinking that I would like this film to reach the young, and not in a lowest common denominator way. I want young people to know and grapple with what it is to be a divided self, and to remember how it can be possible to get through that, and remember who you are,” she said.

From a production standpoint the challenge was to find investors for a film with Western stars that could be misconstrued as being in the Islamic terrorism camp.

“Equity investors were bailing out by the minute,” Nair said.

In the end the Doha Film Institute put up the pic’s entire $15 million budget.

The next challenge for producer Lydia Pilcher and sales company K5 is to land a U.S. sale on a pic that could play prominently in the East and in Europe.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Ed Lachman Carol

    Ed Lachman on Hollywood’s Need for Coverage, European Filmmaking and Finding Inspiration

    TORUN, Poland – Acclaimed cinematographer Ed Lachman regaled an enraptured audience at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival on Monday with anecdotes of his early days, his take on European and Hollywood cinema, and finding inspiration in younger collaborators. Lachman, who has worked with some of the most prominent German New Wave directors, including Werner Herzog, [...]

  • Barack Obama Pete Souza

    White House Photographer Pete Souza to Be Subject of Documentary

    Pete Souza, the White House photographer who managed to capture Presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan at both ceremonial occasions and in unguarded moments, will be the subject of an upcoming documentary from Focus Features. The indie label announced that it is teaming with Dawn Porter, the Peabody Award-winning director of “Gideon’s Army” and “Bobby Kennedy for [...]

  • Oscars: 159 Documentary Features Submitted

    Oscars: 159 Features Submitted Into Documentary Race

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has unveiled the 159 documentary features that have been submitted for the 92nd annual Academy Awards. A shortlist of 15 films will be announced on Dec. 16. Nominations will be announced on Jan. 13. The winners will be revealed on Feb. 9. High-profile titles include “American Factory,” [...]

  • The Irishman BTS

    Best Director Race Captures Hollywood at a Crossroads

    When Martin Scorsese made an offhand quip about his skepticism toward the Marvel Cinematic Universe earlier this fall, specifically whether the blockbuster franchise films that now provide a hefty share of Hollywood studio grosses should be considered “cinema” at all, he couldn’t have predicted the sort of longstanding firestorm he was about to set off. [...]

  • Laura Dern AoA

    Laura Dern Calls Out the Double Standard That Exists Between Mothers and Fathers

    While discussing her performance in “Marriage Story” with Sterling K. Brown for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Laura Dern addressed the contentious double-standard that exists between mothers and fathers; particularly those struggling with separation and divorce. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story” chronicles the dissolution of a marriage between a stage director and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content