Wednesday, June 27, 2007


A Mighty Heart is a good movie. I am a little puzzled by some of the reception, including that from Asra Nomani, in whose home Daniel and Mariane Pearl were staying and who also went through the heartbreaking trauma of waiting to hear about Pearl until the unfortunate day when the news finally came about his murder. I am puzzled because while Nomani criticises the portrayal of Daniel Pearl in the movie as unrealistic, I thought that the movie was not really about him; it was about his wife Mariane who was a pillar of quiet strength and unwavering conviction after he was abducted. She is really the focus of the movie, and Angelina Jolie does put on one of her best performances ever, and after movies like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, gives us the renewed hope that she can actually act well.

I actually think it is prudent that the movie does not focus on Daniel Pearl. That's because it is presented in semi-documentary form, strictly focusing on what happened. It begins on the day when Daniel was kidnapped, and if it is going to portray events realistically, it is logical that he is not a big part of the movie because nobody after that really knew what was exactly happening to him. It also does not want to portray Daniel Pearl as some kind of hero, because after all he was just doing his job when he was abducted. I think that he actually behaved heroically after he was kidnapped, but even then, the real focus is on his wife, who showed exceptional equanimity and great restraint when appearing on television. She did not lash out against the kidnappers, realising that that could make matters worse. Most of all, she did not really care about them and only cared about her husband's safety, which makes what happened later even more tragic.

All the actors in the movie have put on good performances. The movie is really a narration of events. If we believe that it tries to accurately convey reality, then we must also praise the few outstanding officers in Pakistani intelligence who worked day and night to pursue leads and root out coconspirators. Reactions by some Pakistani officials claiming that Indian intelligence is behind the kidnapping are absurd as expected.

In the end, Mariane Pearl rightly says that she also grieves for those Pakistani families whose sons, fathers, and brothers are also killed by terrorists everyday. Especially for those of us in the US, such stories while indisputably tragic, are given outstanding publicity and attention by the media. They threaten to dwarf the equally tragic stories of hundreds of other journalists and common people in other countries.

Finally, this is not just an American tragedy because of an even more fundamental reason; it is a product of conflict and hatred inspired mainly by religious faith. Let's say Daniel Pearl was not Jewish. Would that have prevented his abduction? Likely not. But if Islamic fundamentalists had not seen Americans as orchestrating a Christian crusade to invade and conquer their lands and their 'culture', would that have prevented such an event? It is much more likely that it would have. That's why the issue is not an American issue. It is an issue about faith.

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