Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Baiscope movie recommendation #3

The events of last week in London reminded me of a relatively small British movie called My Son the Fanatic (1997). The movie correctly and very early on identified the rise of religious fundamentalism in Britain. Reviewed by WSWS:
This collaborative work by Kureishi and Prasad is a moving, often funny, and stubbornly unconventional love story about a Pakistani taxi-driver and a prostitute. Set in the north of England, the backdrop to the story is the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the growing tensions within a community that borders on the city's red light district at one end and the mosque at the other.
The film stars Om Puri as Parvez, the Pakistani taxi driver, and it is a treat to watch him as always.

Here we have two radically different personalities. Parvez has apparently assimilated himself into western society. Traditional Muslim values have little or no appeal for someone who considers himself "a man of the world". He listens to jazz records, appears to have no time for religion and is a casual drinker.

Farid on the other hand, like many second generation Asian youth, feels like an "unwelcome visitor" to Britain. In one of his first confrontations with his father, Farid angrily tells him that the Police Commissioner father of his fiance could not bear to be in the same room as them. For him, religious fundamentalism seems to offer an alternative to a prejudiced and immoral society.

The parallel between Farid and the three London bombers is hard to miss. The review goes on to point a flaw in the film:

Sadly the film's weakness also resides in its treatment of Islamic fundamentalism. The explanation of its attraction for large numbers of other youth is somewhat shallow.
Here I would disagree with the reviewer. The movie is made from the perspective of the taxi driver who is unable to comprehend the motivations behind his son's radicalization. To him, the Islamic fundamentalists are indeed "frenzied, almost clownish" (sic).


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