Most of the world is familiar with the so-called “American Dream”: you move, you build, you conquer, and hopefully, you succeed. Or something like that. What about other nation’s dreams though? “What is a Pakistani Dream; one that doesn’t involve immigration?”
This is the speech that Pakistani professor Changez delivers to his students as he informs them on non-violent protest. Changez knows about the American dream all too well, he also knows about the dangerous power of prejudice – he is being investigated in connection to terrorist activities.
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Indian director Mira Nair’s THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST scrutinizes the American dream and the way that it can encourage the subduing of cultural identity. It’s a stark depiction of Patriotism-fueled prejudice with more than one source of potential, but some extraneous additions lead to something more muddled, overcrowded, and overly ambitious. It’s two-thirds of a great story.
Straight from the beginning, it is clear THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST is going to challenge our perspectives and hit us with some dense plot. The opening at a Pakistan market sets things off on the right foot by quickly throwing us into a foreign community in Pakistan – dancing and singing.
Speaking to the density – much of the exposition is told in a 10-second shot of an FBI-style investigation board in which the camera pans over photographs and descriptions of characters. This is a crucial shot, one you ordinarily wouldn’t want to count on an audience missing – and it’s the first clue to the ambition that director Mira Nair has put into this film.
Things quickly ramp up as we witness an American being forcefully kidnapped, and someone’s office being torn apart by some shady miscreants, whether these events have anything to do with Changez is a mystery, as this is only a teaser – the film is told largely in retrospect as Changez retells his story of how he went to America and found not only the dream, but the nightmare.
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