With just under three weeks to go until the start of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and the world premiere of Arabian epic Black Gold, the Doha Film Institute (DFI) has announced that The Reluctant Fundamentalist will be the second major international film to receive funding.
Based on the bestselling Booker Prize-nominated book by Mohsin Hamid, the film adaption of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is being directed by Mira Nair, with Riz Ahmed in the lead role of Changez, a Pakistani Princeton-graduate who tells the story of his love affair with America and his eventual abandonment of the country after the events of September 11. Kate Hudsen, Lieve Schrieber and Kiefer Sutherland also star.
The film started shooting earlier in the week on location in Atlanta, New York, Lahore, Delhi and Istanbul. No release date has yet been set.
“My father lived in Lahore before the partition of India and Pakistan,” says Nair, who is producing the film with the Doha Film Institute through her production company, Mirabai Films. “I am inspired to make a contemporary film about Pakistan, especially in this day and age when the perceived schism between Islamists and the Western world becomes more pronounced each day.”
Nair, who directed 2001’s Monsoon Wedding, is no stranger to Qatar. Her biopic Amelia – based on the story of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart – opened the first ever Doha Tribeca Film Festival in 2009 and she was a guest at the screening in the Museum of Islamic Art.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist will be the second DFI-funded film starring Riz Ahmed. The English actor and musician played the supporting role of Ali in Black Gold, which will open the Doha Tribeca Film Festival on October 25, and spent several weeks filming in Qatar earlier this year. He also stars in Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, an adaption of Tess of the D’Ubervilles set in modern day India, which will screen at the upcoming Abu Dhabi Film Festival.
Although filming isn’t taking place in Qatar, there is still hope that in joining as financiers, DFI will help build the local film industry and provide opportunities for aspiring or emerging talent from the region. “We started this process by sending production staff to work on the sets of Black Gold in Tunisia and Qatar,” says DFI executive director Amanda Palmer. “With The Reluctant Fundamentalist, we will again send a regional team on-location with Mira’s crew to learn their craft.”
For the author Mohsin Hamid, the development of the film is as important as the story. “This film means a great deal to me. It is a rare case of artistic collaboration between Pakistanis, Americans and Indians. It tries to humanise what too often is stereotyped. And it tries to break down the walls that separate us, to expand our sense of empathy, and to let us reconnect as artists, as people and as citizens of a shared planet.”
The book is primarily set in a cafe in Lahore, when Changez meets an American stranger and tells him the tale that brought them together, from his success in Princeton and then Wall Street, to his romance with the beautiful Erica, and then – following September 11 – his subsequent change in identity and falling out of love with both Erica and the US.
How Nair transforms this metaphor-laden and thought-provoking novel into a feature should make for interesting viewing.