Asra Nomani, the former Wall Street Journal reporter who's the "supporting character" in "A Mighty Heart," the Angelina Jolie film about journalists Danny and Marianne Pearl and Danny's murder in Pakistan, helped out on making the picture true to life. She made sure the cast even got the right notebooks that she and Danny used. But when she saw the glittery press photos out of the film's premiere at Cannes, she had a "duh" moment. The marketing, the PR, the celebrities: All of it was absolutely the antithesis of Danny, she realized. The studio publicists brought a screener of the film to her house in West Virginia: the on-screen Danny just looked so flat. So in an email to a producer of the film early this month, Nomani wrote: "I'm not going to be attending the premiere because, upon reflection, I just don't believe in the movie and the mythology of its marketing and PR campaign."
In this excerpt from her email, she explains her thinking.
As much as the talking points say that this movie is for Danny and that everyone made the movie for the right reasons, I don't at all feel that it is for Danny or that noble intentions underly this movie. That's just my opinion, and I don't mean to offend you, but I've just heard that soundbite one too many times.
In your role as producer, you may think I'm full of B.S. in seeing a reality that isn't the one that you're portraying on the big screen. I am told there is hardly a person who thinks too highly of Hollywood's depiction of reality. But even knowing that intellectually, I cannot in good conscience enable an enterprise to me that represents to me little more than "astroturf reality."
Maybe I've read a little too much Joseph Campbell, but I think that our society has become quite sick in the way that we manufacture heroes out of tragedy — Guliani, for example, being a hero when he was just doing his job as mayor — and to me the industry that supports this mythmaking is not one in which I want to participate. To me, the participation of the media industry in creating myths out of reality is most distressing.
The truth is that I am sorry that I ever got involved in the movie making from the beginning. I was naive in putting trust in the process, and I shouldn't have been but my head was also spinning post-Karachi in trying to support Mariane as much as I could. To me, Danny had left her at my house, and I had a duty to him to take care of her.
I tried throughout the filmmaking to help because I hoped a greater good would come from this enterprise. In my heart, I don't think a greater good emerges, despite all of the allegiances with reporting organizations, etc., because at the end of the day this movie could never have happened without the tragic sacrifice of Danny's life, and my greatest sadness is that I don't think that the movie comes close to even capturing Danny's real life charisma and charm.
As the details of the movie have sunk into my conscience over the last couple of weeks, I realized that the film made me miss Danny even more as a friend, because he was so not present for me on the screen.