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THE TERRORIST (2000) (****)

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Here's another film that you'll probably have to search out to find, but it's worth the hunt. It's from India (which is the main reason it's hard to find) and follows the journey of a pretty young girl, who has been chosen to be a human bomb to assassinate a VIP. Made prior to September 11th, the film has only increased in importance as a window into the mind of someone who is willing to kill themselves in an effort to murder others. Though inspired by the assassination of the Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 by Tamil Tigers, there is no country, religion or political preference mentioned in the film, which makes the story very universal. Reminding us that terrorism is an act not solely used by Muslim extremists.

Malli (Ayesha Dharker, CITY OF JOY) is an orphan who lives in the jungles among the rebels. Though she hasn't been completely hardened by her circumstances, she has no hope of escaping the violence of the only world she knows. It's easy to see how someone, who grows up with death around them all the time, can easily move into extremism. When you’re a poor teen and are not sure whether or not you're going to live to see another birthday, the praise and privilege of becoming a suicide bomber can be very persuasive.

After deciding to become a suicide bomber, she is helped to her rendezvous point by a teenage boy named Lotus (Vishwas), who knows how to avoid mines and booby traps set up all around them. Along her journey she meets a young dying soldier (K. Krishna), who weeps that he has never been in the arms of the woman before. Taking a room near the location of the assassination, the young girl learns a lot about life and herself from her landlord, a talkative farmer named Vasu (Parmeshwaran). Vasu's positive view on life is in spite of the fact that his wife has lied in a coma for seven years. Each night he sets a spot for at dinner with the hope today will be the day gets up and joins him again. His love of the simple things in nature and his sincere religious devotion is not only infectious to Malli, but the audience as well.

Despite beginning in a dark place, director Santosh Sivan makes his film into a beautiful life-affirming story. In addition to the wonderful story, the film is one of the most beautifully filmed pictures I've seen in a long time. For a film that deals with the topic of terrorism, there is very little violence on display. However, violence hangs as a pall over the entire story as Malli gets closer to her fateful act. With all that has happened on her journey to her death, what goes through her mind when the detonator is in her palm? In this strange time of terrorist attacks, this is a film that I feel everyone should see.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks