Examining Pakistani Identities in Non-Western Cinema in the Post 9/11 Landscape
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Pakistanis in Hollywood films and U.S. television shows have largely been depicted as a threat to the western world. Television shows such as Homeland and Numbers, and films like G.I Joe and Zero Dark Thirty, have depicted Pakistani characters as terrorists and as one-dimensional characters, lacking depth. Their screen portrayal has been particularly negative after 9/11/01. Given that most Pakistanis identify themselves as Muslims, Pakistanis in the U.S. have been automatically subjected to racial profiling and surveillance by the U.S. state apparatus following the September 11 attacks. As a Pakistani studying in North America, I decided to focus my MA research on exploring this fractured identity in the post 9/11/01 landscape. I chose to do this through films as they inform people’s interpretations of the world, of themselves, and of others. This thesis will review non-Western films, which I argue, offer a counter narrative to mainstream Hollywood’s treatment of Pakistanis. I will be examining two international co-productions, Khuda Ke Liye (2007; Pakistan and USA) and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012; USA, UK and Qatar). Both films depict the experience of the Pakistani “Other” in the U.S., immediately following the 9/11/01 attacks. This paper will review the ideological messages of both films, and analyze how the films portray their Pakistani protagonists. Through examining these non-Western films, I will show that such cinematic works can offer a global resistance, and a global solidarity, against the “us versus them” narrative prevailing in American entertainment. I thus investigate how these international co-productions viewed the 9/11 attacks while also considering the impact it generated on the lives of Pakistani Muslims living in the West.