Students, parents and cinephiles crowded into Kresge Auditorium over Bowdoin’s Family Weekend for a screening of Mira Nair’s acclaimed movie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. A Q&A with Nair followed the film.
Nair has directed such films as Vanity Fair, Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake. She has won numerous awards, including a Golden Camera Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and has been nominated for an Academy Award. She is also the mother of current Bowdoin student Zohran Mamdani ’14.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on a novel by Mohsin Hamid, narrates the seldom told tale of events from the other side of the world after 9/11. It follows the life of an ambitious Pakistani student who rises through the ranks of Wall Street only to become disenchanted by his artificial American life, pushing him to returns to his roots. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2012.
When asked about her motivation for telling this story, Nair mentioned her desire to portray “a very different side of Pakistan than you see in the media.” Nair first traveled to Pakistan in 2004 and was immediately enthralled by the culture. In making The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Nair sought “to make a bridge between two countries that I know and love.”
Nair also cited a desire to increase dialogue around incidents of violence and terrorism, particularly from the perspective of Middle-Easterners and South Asians. “It’s always about the American soldiers and how they get traumatized… or how they fight for freedom and democracy,” she said. “[Movies like Zero Dark Thirty] are terribly noble films but never are about where [Americans] have gone and how they have impacted that world. …Finally, you see a film that is our reality.”
Hassaan Mirza ’17, who first saw the film when it opened in Lahore, Pakistan, voiced a similar opinion: “You always have a very different image in American movies.”
The interview, moderated by Bowdoin Film Society co-presidents Monica Das ’14 and Isabelle Franks ’14, concluded with Nair’s advice to Bowdoin students: “Be a student of life! It is very important to be questioning and traveling where you are not comfortable, where you are not familiar.”
Nair currently lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.