A Mighty Heart (2007)

A Mighty Heart (2007)

Taglines: One woman dared to keep hope alive.

In the 5 years since Daniel Pearl’s death, nearly 230 journalists have been killed in the line of duty. On January 23, 2002, Mariane Pearl’s world changed forever. Her husband Daniel, South Asia Bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, was researching a story on shoe bomber Richard Reid. The story drew them to Karachi where a go-between had promised access to an elusive source. As Danny left for the meeting, he told Mariane he might be late for dinner. He never returned.

In the face of death, Danny’s spirit of defiance and his unflinching belief in the power of journalism led Mariane to write about his disappearance, the intense effort to find him and his eventual murderer in her memoir A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl. Six months pregnant when the ordeal began, she was carrying a son that Danny hoped to name Adam.

She wrote the book to introduce Adam to the father he would never meet. Transcending religion, race and nationality, Mariane’s courageous desire to rise above the bitterness and hatred that continues to plague this post 9/11 world, serves as the purest expression of the joy of life she and Danny shared.

A Mighty Heart (2007)

The night Danny disappeared, Mariane kept vigil with Asra Nomani, an old friend and colleague of Danny’s at the WSJ, living in Karachi. Both women were seasoned international journalists with formidable investigative skills, but they were also foreign women in a country that had become increasingly volatile since September 11. By dawn, they knew they were facing a crisis that required strong allies fully briefed on Pakistan’s proliferating terrorist cells, its byzantine bureaucracy and its notorious Inter-Services-Intelligence agency (I.S.I.).

Dozens of local investigators swarmed the house that morning, including a man called Captain, the then head of Pakistan’s brand new counter-terrorism unit. With Asra’s house as headquarters, Captain’s men, along with an American diplomatic security agent, two Journal colleagues and the FBI, dedicated themselves to the search.

After five harrowing weeks, amidst escalating media frenzy, they found the kidnappers. Among them was the known militant Omar Saeed Sheikh, aka “Bashir,” the go-between who had offered Danny information relating to the shoe bomber story. Then came the devastating news that Danny had been brutally murdered weeks earlier.

Mariane and Danny believed that by bearing witness to events and allowing all voices to be heard, truthful journalism could bridge communities in conflict. Mariane has remained devoted to this principle, refusing to succumb to hate or fear. After Danny’s death, she went home to her native France to await Adam’s birth. She and Adam now live in Paris, France.

A Mighty Heart is a 2007 drama film directed by Michael Winterbottom; It is an adaptation of Mariane Pearl’s memoir, A Mighty Heart. A Mighty Heart was met with positive reviews from both critics and viewers alike. The film was screened out of competition at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, before being released in North America on June 22, 2007.

A Mighty Heart (2007) - Angelina Jolie

A Connected Group

While highly regarded actors filled A MIGHTY HEART’S principal roles from the U.S., England, India and Pakistan, many small roles went to non-actors, mostly from Pakistan. “There’s not a big acting community in Pakistan,” said Wendy Brazington (24 Hour Party People), Winterbottom’s casting director since 1997. “So if a guy on the street looked right for the part, we grabbed him.”

Visa hassles aside, Winterbottom was keen on bringing people from Pakistan to India, for the authenticity they contributed, and to expand their horizons. “People like the taxi drivers or Shabir (Asra’s houseman) had never been on a plane before, or outside Pakistan,” he said. “Our real fixer from Islamabad played the fixer Masud, and our fixer from Peshawar on In This World came to India and played an I.S.I. officer.”

Karachi travel agent Telal Saeed was uniquely qualified to play `Kaleem,’ the character based on Jameel Yusuf. Yusuf heads CPLC, formed in 1989 by Karachi industrialists to recover kidnap victims. Saeed knew him socially, and then professionally when his own nephew was kidnapped and held for 91 days. “CPLC has state of the art equipment, computerized for surveillance, especially for monitoring phone calls,” said Saeed. “The FBI was surprised to see their set-up and coordinated with them on the Daniel Pearl case.”

A Mighty Heart (2007) - Archie Panjabi

Saeed’s brother Bilal, a hotelier and father of the kidnapped boy, was cast as interior minister Moinuddin Haider.

“It was a very connected group,” said Jolie. “I didn’t even know who was a non-actor because it all just felt right.”

It felt right behind the camera, too, where Winterbottom’s long-standing team worked alongside Indian and Pakistani crew members. “What was really great was that Dede and Plan B, and especially Angie, were so relaxed and friendly, that all these people with completely different experiences just got on with it,” said Winterbottom.

Jolie understood the potential for risk, and for reward. “We talked about the risks before we started filming, the security concerns and what it would mean politically if we got it wrong. We could anger more people and make it worse,” she said. “But if by some small chance we get it right, maybe we can do a little something towards bringing people back together, or at least looking at each other in another light.”

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A Mighty Heart Movie Poster (2007)

A Mighty Heart (2007)

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Sajid Hasan, Aly Khan, Irfan Khan, Denis O’Hare, Archie Panjabi, Will Patton, Telal Saeed, Amit Dhawan, Saira Nasir Khan, Bushra Parwani
Screenplay by: Michael Winterbottom
Production Design by: Mark Digby
Cinematography by: Marcel Zyskind
Film Editing by: Peter Christelis
Costume Design by: Charlotte Walter
Set Decoration by: Emma Field-Rayner
Art Direction by: David Bryan
Music by: Harry Escott, Molly Nyman
MPAA Rating: R for language.
Distributed by: Paramount Vantage
Release Date: June 22, 2007