The topic of emotional and social mess in the aftermath of 9/11 has been a favourite amongst film-makers. We have seen numerous films highlighting the misunderstanding and miscommunication between Muslims and the West.
However, Big River — produced by Mohammed Naqvi — is a slow movie that starts off with an accidental meeting of three strangers on a highway. The story then narrates how these three strangers — Pakistani middle-aged man, Ali, a Japanese boy, Teppei and an American girl Sarah — become friends. The moral of the story is that real life friendship does not know any boundaries.
Big River, made in 2005, was screened in Karachi at Fomma-DHA Art Centre (FDAC), Zamzama Park on September 8. While speaking about the conceptualisation of this film producer Naqvi said, “Atsushi Funahashi (director-writer) and Eric Van Den Brulle (writer-cinematographer) were already done with the first draft of Big River when I met them.” He added, “I met Atsushi at the Berlin Film Festival during the Berlin Talent Campus programme and that is when he told me about this project.”
About casting people from diverse backgrounds, Naqvi said, “I was intrigued right from the start by the fact that the three leads were from different ethnicities. It was a very important story as I saw it as a meditation on friendship.”
The producer also said that he could connect with the film right away, “Being a Pakistani Muslim who witnessed the tragedy of 9/11, I felt this film was a precious counter-argument to the narrative of mistrust and animosity that was created at that time. It gave the hope that ultimately human kindness and trust prevails.”
Through this project, Naqvi wishes to strengthen his identity as a Muslim in a positive way and eradicate misconceptions that are blurring people’s perspective towards this great tragedy. “I worked with both Atsushi and Eric while they were writing the script and consulted them on the development of the characters and themes, especially for Ali’s character which is played brilliantly by Kavi Raz,” he explained. “It was a tough job for me to portray his emotional dynamics accurately without making him come across as the Oriental stereotype mainstream western media promotes us as.”
Naqvi finds true inspiration in the work of film-maker Ingmar Bergman, “His understanding of the human condition is beyond exemplary. On the surface, his films inhabit a dark scenario, but a sophisticated analysis shows Bergman’s limitless compassion and empathy for humanity,” said Naqvi. “It’s about seeking beauty in the most unexpected and hopeless places. I recommend seeing Wild Strawberries. The film changed my life.”
Naqvi said that this film is only the starting point and that he is currently working on three more documentaries. “My recently completed film is called Shabeena’s Quest, which will premiere on Al-Jazeera World later this year. Plus, I have two other documentary features currently in production.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.
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