THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST
Pilcher and Nair sought full creative control and secured a development partner in Hani Farsi, a Saudi-born, London-based, cinema-loving entrepreneur, who was beginning a foray into the film business. By the end of 2009, Farsi's company, Corniche Pictures, agreed to finance the writing of the screenplay and a production plan.
Pilcher admits it was a challenge to finance a film whose beating heart is the complicated character of Changez. Armed with a screenplay, Pilcher and Nair met with numerous financiers, distributors and sales agents. They met with the Doha Film Institute at the 2010 Doha Tribeca Film Festival. They loved the screenplay and committed to providing the first cornerstone of equity.
Pilcher continued to look for partners. "A British financier of award-winning films was pressuring me to lower the budget," the producer remembers. "I told him it was very difficult to further reduce costs without sacrificing the scope. We really needed to include the four countries we were aspiring to be in. His response was, 'I don't care if you shoot in Rockaway Beach darling, let's face it, your leading man is a Pakistani Muslim.' In a business where world sales estimates set the stage, we were fighting an uphill battle in terms of risk."
Encouraged by Indian editor and director Shimit Amin, who was teaching at Nair's film school in Kampala, Nair and Pilcher forensically parsed down the budget, taking decisions such as to shoot digitally and to save around $1M by doing the post work in India. Amin would go on to become the film's editor. Doha Film Institute eventually went to on to fully finance the film, believing in the strength of its story, and the profound and important message it conveys.
"The substance and the form of the film are very closely linked," says Hamid. "It is a collaborative effort from people from all over the word, from America, from India, from Pakistan, coming together to create this artistic vision. The film believes in the possibility of that connection and expresses it by respecting the differences of the characters. It's not a condemnation of either Pakistan or America. It shows the world as a complicated place, where centrifugal forces are trying to push the world apart. By humanizing the characters, we are attempting to bring the world back together."
The dynamic international filmmaking team included the Irish-American cinematographer Declan Quinn, American composer Michael Andrews, Indian editor Shimit Amin, Indian costumer designer Arjun Bhasin, British production designer Michael Carlin, South African script supervisor Robyn Aronstam, and Indian and American sound designers, PM Satheesh and Dave Paterson, respectively. Local crews were hired in Atlanta, New York, Delhi, Lahore and Istanbul.
"Everywhere we filmed, people who joined the crew and became part of the team, did so because they felt this was a rare opportunity to be part of a film with a strong vision and the potential to break new ground," says Pilcher.
"My visual influences are vast and eclectic," Nair offers, "from the muted colors of the great painter Amrita Shergil to the graphic geometry of urban landscapes photographed by Andreas Gursky to the avant-garde architectural vision of my dear friends Liz Diller and Ric Scofidio. I am interested in creating a visual language for the phenomenon of globalization, which forces the energy of order and chaos to be viewed in the same frame.
Indeed, the movie is created and shaped by a director who is of both the East and the West, and who loves them both. "The Battle Of Algiers is a huge inspiration to me," Nair reveals. "Both sides of the tale, the French and the Algerian, are equally nuanced, conceived with intelligence, pain and love. That is what I wanted for The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The world is a complicated place. I wanted to take joy in the differences, to love them and not compromise them."
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