From July ’07 Spotlight: We’ve all learned to beware of spin, so perhaps you’re reluctant to see the new “Angelina Jolie film” A Mighty Heart about the death of Daniel Pearl? I was wary too, but having seen director Michael Winterbottom’s superb film In This World (2002), I went full of hope and was amply rewarded.
“I was in Pakistan in November 2001 [filming In This World] when everyone was there for the war in Afghanistan,” Winterbottom explained during a recent trip to Chicago, and what impressed me most about A Mighty Heart was its sense of place. This is definitely not a typical Hollywood production. “Angelina and Brad were looking to do a film outside their normal way of working,” said Winterbottom. “They wanted us to be able to get to Pakistan and shoot in a scruffy, cheap way; in our own way.” (Brad Pitt is the film’s primary producer.)
Based on Mariane Pearl’s firsthand account, the film cuts back and forth between the Karachi home of Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani (“mission control” point for those investigating Danny’s disappearance) and ordinary Pakistani homes invaded (most often with cause) by those in search of clues. “Inside the house,” said Winterbottom, “they’ve got the chart and the computers and they’re trying to logically piece together what might have happened. In the real world, outside, it’s much more chaotic.”
Showing the impact of the investigation on the lives of Pakistanis is essential because Danny’s disappearance creates moral turmoil: on the one hand Mariane knows that people are being tortured for information (a practice she abhors); on the other hand, she is desperately afraid. At one point, trying to pressure a fellow journalist into revealing the name of his confidential source, she begins to scream: does he realize he might have information that could save Danny’s life? A Mighty Heart faces some of the most difficult issues of our time head on.
Jewish audiences will want to know more about Danny, but this is Mariane’s story and Danny exists mostly in flashback. There he is, smashing a glass under the chuppah at their wedding, and asking his pregnant wife to give their son the Biblical name “Adam.” Maybe someday there will be a biopic devoted to Daniel Pearl’s life, but for now we can cherish the memory of someone who was respected, admired, and deeply, deeply loved. Dayenu!
For more information, visit: www.amightyheartmovie.com