FILM CRITICAL REVIEW
FILM CRITICAL REVIEW
The reluctant fundamentalist movie is a nostalgic reminder of thehorror that began the 21st century with regard to Al-Qaida attacks onAmerican soil after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The moviehighlights the strained relationships between America and the Muslimworld. 1The word fundamentalism can be defined as a movement that stressesstrict adherence or observance to a given set of principles. Themovie takes us into a journey that sees Changez, Khan, a Pakistanieconomic analyst who becomes disillusioned by how he was treated bythe American security agents on his way back to the country,following the September 11, terror attacks on the U.S by Al-Qaida.Changez love for America turns into hatred, when he is furtheraccused of aiding in the kidnapping of an American professor inPakistan2.As such, the movie reveals to us how fundamentalism and Americanismare at odds with each other highlighting various themes on religion,orientalism, spatial and economic inequality, culture and powerstruggles.
The impression of the movie, reluctant fundamentalist overlaps to acertain degree with the orientalist discourse themes, consideringthat the movie divulges into studying the Middle Eastern and EasternAsian culture, which is what orientalism focuses on, hence giving usan insight into understanding the Middle Eastern culture.3As such, the differences in the political realities of the East andthe West are brought into the fore. American understanding oforientalism is seen in their political and economic role in theMiddle Eastern countries, which is clearly brought out in the moviereluctant fundamentalist.
A turning point in America’s view of orientalism as opposed toother western, European countries came after the twin bombing ofAmerica on September 11, 2001, which, as the movie reveals,highlights the divided loyalties in the world. On one end, is afundamentalist belief in certain views, being the Middle East, Muslimcountries, while the other is a complacent belief in a capitalisticworld with the harsh realities of the two differences clearly broughtout in the movie. Orientalism, being a means by which America viewsthe culture and beliefs of the Middle East world is clearly broughtinto the limelight in this movie.4As such, the theme of the in- equivalence between Americanism andIslamic fundamentalism comes into play. The theme is well understoodthrough orientalism, which is very much portrayed in the movie, withregard to America’s view of the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalistcountries.
The role of culture in given situations is also another theme broughtout in the movie. With regard to this, the movie brings out howcultural differences have affected the relationship between Americaand the fundamentalist Islamic countries. Changez, accompanied by hisAmerican girlfriend on his return to America after the September 11terror attacks in the U.S is strip searched when being screenedsomething that his American girlfriend did not experience. Changezwas in the very essence racially targeted in the screening processjust because he came from a different culture that has always beenassociated with terrorism.5In the movie, the narrator clearly presents to us the picture of thehumiliation Changez went through to the point of him deciding toreturn to his native country, throwing away a lucrative job in theU.S, to go and take up a teaching job in Pakistan. Changez becomescompletely disenchanted with a country that rejects him after havingwelcomed him warmly at first.
Some scholars have at times claimed that racism has been replaced bycultural fundamentalism, which comes into play when defining whobelongs, or does not belong in western democracies.6As such, hierarchical schemes of racial and cultural differences arevery well brought out in this movie. With regard to culturalcitizenship, American immigrants in many cases have found themselvesnegotiating their racial and cultural boundaries. As such, Americancitizenship is in a way based on racial politics, within theframework of the state. With regard to Chavez’s harsh treatment onhis return to America, the question that remains is whether theterror attack by Al-Qaida makes Changez a fundamentalist. The picturethat comes out clearly is the fact that Changez is from a totallydifferent culture associated with terror attacks, hence the harshtreatment. As such, the race versus culture construction ofexclusionary discourses is albeit un-intentionally a tricky affairfor Americans, with regard to how they relate with Islamicfundamentalists.
The story of Changez Khan is a powerful piece of cultural dellusionand misconceptions. The film challenges the common opinions and ideasregarding fundamentalist Muslims and tries to wipe out such thoughts.As such, Changez finds himself being an enemy all of a sudden, andhas to fight prejudice and suspicion whenever he is on Americanstreets.
Spatial and economic inequality theme in an increasinglyinterconnected world is also very evident in this film. This is seenwhereby Changez, reminisces his lost American dream and thedisappointment he faces which takes him back to Pakistan, hismotherland country. Scholars have, in many cases analyzed nations assystems that link identities, economies, and political power tospecific geographical regions. This, in a way seems to standlogically as an opposition to globalization and in the processbringing into focus how globalization leads to undermining of othernations.7This scenario is very much reflected in the movie whereby, throughglobalization, the U.S is able to undermine the economy of a countrysuch as Pakistan due to its involvement in terrorist activities thathave hurt America.
Through its economic power, America is portrayed as capable ofundermining weaker economies and treat its citizens like suspects whoare out to destroy the American heritage. Such is the situation thatis portrayed in the movie, Reluctant Fundamentalist, whereby,everybody from a Muslim country, in this case Pakistan is treated asa terrorist. Globalization has also, in the very essence of itfacilitated such inequalities due to the dominance of the developedcountries of developing, or under developed countries.8As such, there is a spatial segregation and in treatment of peoplefrom lower economies, a theme clearly brought out in the movie in themanner that Changez was treated.
The movie, reluctant fundamentalist brings us to an understanding ofthe issues present in modern day Pakistan, and equally more aboutcontemporary America. Through the movie, we are bale to discernideological differences between America and fundamentalist Muslims.9We are also able to know how their strained relationship has workedtowards the hostile correlation between them. As such, Changez’sstory is a clear illustration of the Orientalist view of America tothe Middle East countries, spatial and economic inequalities betweenthem, the divergent and often conflicting cultures leading tosegregation, and the power struggles prevalent between the two,ideologically different countries.
Hamid, Mohsin. 2008. The reluctant fundamentalist.London: Penguin.
Hamid, Mohsin. 2012. The reluctant fundamentalist.Stuttgart: Klett Sprachen.
Herbert, Marilyn. 2008. Bookclub-in-a-Box presents thediscussion companion for Mohsin Hamid`s novel The reluctantfundamentalist. [United States]: Bookclub-In-A-Box.
Nair, Mira, and Mohsin Hamid. 2013. The reluctantfundamentalist: from book to film. New Delhi: Penguin Studio.
1 Hamid, Mohsin. 2008. The reluctant fundamentalist. London: Penguin.
2 Hamid, Mohsin. 2008. The reluctant fundamentalist. London: Penguin.
3 Herbert, Marilyn. 2008. Bookclub-in-a-Box presents the discussion companion for Mohsin Hamid`s novel The reluctant fundamentalist. [United States]: Bookclub-In-A-Box.
4 Nair, Mira, and Mohsin Hamid. 2013. The reluctant fundamentalist: from book to film. New Delhi: Penguin Studio.
5 Nair, Mira, and Mohsin Hamid. 2013. The reluctant fundamentalist: from book to film. New Delhi: Penguin Studio.
6 Herbert, Marilyn. 2008. Bookclub-in-a-Box presents the discussion companion for Mohsin Hamid`s novel The reluctant fundamentalist. [United States]: Bookclub-In-A-Box.
7 Herbert, Marilyn. 2008. Bookclub-in-a-Box presents the discussion companion for Mohsin Hamid`s novel The reluctant fundamentalist. [United States]: Bookclub-In-A-Box.
8 Herbert, Marilyn. 2008. Bookclub-in-a-Box presents the discussion companion for Mohsin Hamid`s novel The reluctant fundamentalist. [United States]: Bookclub-In-A-Box.
9 Nair, Mira, and Mohsin Hamid. 2013. The reluctant fundamentalist: from book to film. New Delhi: Penguin Studio.