The War Within (2005)

The second film by Joseph Castelo follows a suicide bomber to the moment of detonation (or not?) at Grand Central Station. For a low budget, independent film, it has remarkable acting, writing, cinematography and soundtrack. It is too bad that there probably wasn't enough money to promote it in a big way.

I was particularly struck by the frankness of the film. All the characters are strikingly flawed, no heros - including the character nations. Motive for violence is analyzed, but left open for the viewer to decide whether it is a valid reason or not. The three layers of conflict - personal, interpersonal, and global - are superbly depicted.

The protagonist, Hassan, grew up in Pakistan and lived as a liberal Muslim for many years, studying in the USA and France. A life transforming experience occurs and he becomes a radical with a single purpose. He is juxtaposed with a moderate family in NYC, old friends from Pakistan, who have integrated themselves in America.

The most powerful point in the film for me is not the end where he decides whether or not to go through with the bombing. It is when he expresses his faith in a way that severely hurts a friend. The judgement he passes is stark and honest, yet so hurtful and insensitive. To me this was challenging because I tend to make quick judgements (though I don't usually speak them as Hassan does). Reminds me of Jesus's words in Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
It was an interesting experience watching a film about religious fundamentalism with out being a member of that particular religion, in this case Islam. I was able to objectively view the characters, yet at the same time, I was able draw parallels with Christianity and my own unique fundamentalism and absolutes. I really enjoyed the explanation of the Arabic word jihad by an imam in the middle film.

Oh, and Canada gets a nod, sort of...

Official Site | IMDB | Buy the DVD

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