Venice film fest highlights 9/11

The Reluctant Fundamentalist examines how 9/11 attacks affected a young Asian man.

A statue of a Lion is exhibited near the Palazzo del Cinema for the Venice Film Festival. Picture: AFP.

VENICE - Politics, religion and personal crisis combine in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the opening movie at this year's Venice film festival, which examines what the 9/11 attacks mean for a young Asian man destined for a bright future on Wall Street.

Based on the novel by Pakistan-born writer Mohsin Hamid, it is directed by Indian Mira Nair, one of a large number of female filmmakers in Venice this year and a winner of the festival's coveted Golden Lion for best film with 2001's "Monsoon Wedding."

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which has its red carpet world premiere on Wednesday to launch the 2012 festival, is not eligible for awards because it screens outside the competition.

But organizers are hoping its themes of faith, alienation and radicalism will provide a provocative start to 11 days of films, interviews, press conferences, photo shoots and late-night parties on the Lido Island, which is part of Venice.

"The Reluctant Fundamentalist gave me the platform to create a dialogue between the subcontinent and the West, over a schism that becomes more and more pronounced each day," Nair said of her new film.

She called it "a story about conflicting ideologies, instead of competing fists, where perception and suspicion have the power to determine life or death."

Venice, the world's oldest film festival, celebrates its 80th anniversary this year and welcomes back artistic director Alberto Barbera for another stint at the helm.

He takes over from the respected outgoing director Marco Mueller, and will have his work cut out to ensure that Venice remains one of the top three film festivals in the world amid growing competition from Toronto and beyond.

His competition line-up of 18 movies has won early praise from critics, and Venice has launched a small market to make the notoriously expensive trip to Venice more commercially attractive to movie studio bosses.

"I think all of us at the Biennale (festival) were aware of the fact that you change or die because the competition with other festivals is too strong," Barbera told Reuters. "They invested a lot in the last decade to renovate the structure of the festival, the scope of the festival and make sure Venice remained the same as it was 20 years ago."