‘Jackie’ Director Pablo Larrain to Helm ‘The True American’ About 9/11 Hate Crime Victim
There’s something to be said about an outsider telling a true story about another culture. More often it’s a problem when a filmmaker swoops in to depict another culture’s history – it’s no news Hollywood has a major whitewashing problem and a need to diversify storytelling on and off screen. But if an international filmmaker takes on a piece of American history, especially history that’s particularly iconic or traumatic, that outsider quality can lend to something surprising and deeply moving. That’s what happened with Jackie, when Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain approached the story of the former First Lady from the outside in. It allowed the director to re-examine a famous piece of history, to strip away sentimentality and nostalgia and get at something a little deeper.
Though Jackie was snubbed at the Oscars, it turns out someone besides myself and other Jackie fans was actually pleased with Larrain’s approach, and that someone is Annapurna Pictures. A new press release from the production company announced that the filmmaker has been tapped to helm an upcoming biopic about the victim of a hate crime following September 11. Larrain will direct The True American, based on the nonfiction book of the same name Anand Giridharadas. The film will chronicle the story of Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim American who was shot in the face in an anti-Arab hate crime. The really wild part? He fought to save his attacker from execution.
Ten days after 9/11, Bhuiyan, a former Bangladeshi Air Force pilot, was working at a Dallas convenience store when Mark Stroman shot him in the face at close range. Bhuiyan was the third victim of Stroman’s anti-Arab, post-9/11 hate crime attacks and the only one who survived. With 38 pellets in his face, he was left partly blind by the shooting, and yet he created a petition to advocate for Stroman’s life. In a 2011 interview with the New York Times (which is a fascinating read and also features an interview with the shooter), Bhuyian explained that his family raised him on understanding and forgiveness. He told the paper: “I decided that forgiveness was not enough. That what he did was out of ignorance. I decided I had to do something to save this person’s life. That killing someone in Dallas is not an answer for what happened on Sept. 11.”
That’s a pretty phenomenal story, and knowing how intimately and viscerally Larrain approached heavy topics of suffering and grief in Jackie, he’s sure to bring something special to this story. Kathryn Bigelow was previously tapped to direct the project back in 2014, but now remains onboard as producer. Tom Hardy was also previously attached to star as Stroman, but there’s no word yet if he’s still involved. Even without a confirmed cast or screenwriter though, this is definitely a project to keep an eye on. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll be the film that gets Larrain the Oscar attention he deserves.