Tuesday, September 29, 2009

India-Born Terror

About ten years ago a film came out of India that created quite a buzz in the independent film community. It was The Terrorist, a film that attempts to put a human face on human bombs. (Don't believe the hype on the poster, either. "She's a natural born killer" makes this sound like an exploitation film. I don't know whose idea this was, but it was a bad one.)

The film doesn't make apologies for terrorism, but it also doesn't make it into some scary monster that's out to eat your children. It instead focuses on one woman and her mission. It delves into her mindset, and it paints her as a human ... a concept foreign to a lot of American viewers, which is why the film didn't get as much play over here. Terrorists are always evil, and any attempt to figure them out and understand their motives makes you just as evil.

This movie couldn't have come out of America. Foreign countries, who have lived with terrorism longer than we have, don't have as many issues with it when it comes to examining it for artistic/political means. (I'm also convinced that had this been an American film it would have been deluged with gun fights and explosions.) That leaves the foreign film community with the ability to actually delve into places American cinema won't go ... at least not on the same scale. The two Battle Royale films from Japan fall into much the same category (and when it comes to terrorism, especially the second one). That's not just a political thing, but a cultural one.

Americans just don't want to see film where a terrorist is the main character, no matter how attractive she may be. We want soldiers and cops. We want good guys or safe anti-heroes. We want to make sure the characters are only killing the people we think should be killed. Terrorism, while often targeting specific people, often takes down innocent people. If our films feature buildings exploding, we don't want to see the people inside. And that's where The Terrorist did such a grand job. It put her in your home, and at your rally. It surrounded her with the audience, and it also had you wondering whether or not she would do her "job" at the end of the film.

Movies that tackle sensitive subjects like this one walk a very fine line. This one pulled it off. The movie is not perfect by any means, but it was handled very well. It got its point across, and it presented some very interesting questions. It also, in a roundabout way, showed why a war on terrorism will never work.

Could this film ever come from a major American film studio? Yes ... but only if it starred Bruce Willis taking down the terrorist before the "big one" could happen.

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