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CIFF plays it safe with opening film.

Indian smash "New York," the opening film of the 33rd Cairo International Film Festival, looks at the United States post 9/11 and deals with the issue of ethnic profiling and prejudices that emerged in its aftermath.

Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh), a Muslim Indian comes to New York in 1999 to attend college and befriends Maya (Katrina Kaif) and Samir Shiekh (John Abraham), both of whom are Indian-American. This part of the film plays out like a typical Bollywood film with the flowering of campus romance between Maya and Samir and sacrifice of Omar as he withdraws gracefully from their lives when he realizes that his love for Maya will remain unrequited.

Eight years later, Omar is arrested by the FBI on fabricated charges of terrorism to coerce him into accumulating evidence against Samir, who is suspected of running a terrorist sleeper cell. Omar agrees because he is convinced that Samir is innocent. When he reenters their lives, he stumbles upon a shocking truth; Samir had been detained by the FBI, 10 days after the 9/11 because of his last name and tortured brutally, only to be released after a month, due to lack of evidence.

The movie's dramatic climax is centered on Maya's and Omar's efforts to convince Samir to abort his plan of bombing the FBI building. But the moment Samir acquiesces, he is killed by the FBI snipers.

Within the confines of a commercial Bollywood film, "New York" strikes a chord with the audience as the film takes up the issue of innocent people who are sucked into the vortex of terrorism as a backlash against their unlawful detention. Irrfaan Khan, who was seen as the investigating officer in the Oscar winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire," is first-rate in his portrayal of a Muslim FBI agent.

While choosing New York to open the Cairo International Film Festival, the committee has obviously played it safe. The beautiful star cast of "New York" and the mass appeal of a mainstream Bollywood movie have been the guiding factors. But if it is a big draw film that was the criteria for the opening, "Taare Zameen Pe," India's official entry to the 2009 Academy Awards Best Foreign Film, or "Jodha Akbar" for the sheer grandeur of the montage could have made for fitting curtain-raisers.

Alternatively, any of the award-winning regional films from India could have been used for getting the festival off the mark. Though Bollywood, which is essentially the Hindi film industry, remains the more visible face of Indian cinema, many films made by the regional film industry in India are regularly premiered and honored at film festivals around the world.

Regional films have long been at the forefront of revolutionizing Indian cinema, which began with Satyajit Ray's Bengali film "Pather Panchali" in the 1950s.

With India as the guest of honor for this year's festival, the organizers could have used the festival as a platform to break the myth that Bollywood is the Indian film industry. After all, film festivals are an opportunity to showcase all that is good in cinema, irrespective of the commercial exigencies.

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Nov 11, 2009
Previous Article:No to temporary Palestinian state, says Egypt.
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