Terror in Mumbai
by Matt Fagerholm
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“This is just the trailer. Just wait till you see the rest of the film.” Those bone-chilling words were uttered by an unnamed mastermind of last year’s horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai. And thanks to a galvanizing new HBO documentary, those words can be heard by viewers across America. They’re an urgent reminder of the real threats facing our world, just as audiences are flocking to silly disaster flicks about Mayan prophecies. The film is also a vital call to embrace life, at a time when so many religious fanatics (of many faiths) are brainwashed into embracing death.
The unforgettable hour-long “Terror in Mumbai” is a typical example of HBO’s excellence in documenting important, and often tragic events in human history. The film is directed by Dan Reed (who also helmed the similar “Terror in Moscow”) and is narrated by Mumbai-born Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN and editor of “Newsweek International.” It debuts at 7pm CST on Thursday, November 19th, a week before the first anniversary of the attacks.
Much of the world was awash in the escapist thrill of Slumdog Millionaire, when ten young members of the terrorist group “Lashkar-e-Taiba” (“Army of the Righteous”) unleashed various attacks throughout Mumbai during a 60-hour period. At least 170 people were killed, while over 300 were left wounded. Editors Tom Appleby and Stefan Ronowicz expertly mix news and surveillance footage with audio excerpts of the phone correspondence between the terrorists and their “controllers” in Pakistan.
These conversations provide an unflinching look into the minds of indoctrinated youth who are brought up to kill (and ultimately die) for the beliefs of their elders. There’s a poignant moment when one of the gunmen pauses to reflect on the opulence surrounding him in a Mumbai hotel (“They have computers with thirty-inch screens!” he gushes to his boss on the phone). In that moment, he reveals himself to be a child who never had the chance to explore the world as a free-thinking individual. Instead, he’s been taught to remain obedient to his masters in Pakistan, who are truly the personification of evil. Some of the film’s most chilling (and devastating) moments illustrate how these men manipulated the terrorists as if they were marionettes.
Like HBO’s equally shattering “Children of Beslan,” “Terror in Mumbai” paints a vivid portrait of the moment-to-moment events through various interviews with the people who experienced them: survivors, Indian police officials, and most memorably, the sole surviving terrorist, Ajmal Amir Kasab. During his interrogation, Kasab is surprisingly frank in identifying his terrorist group, explaining how he became involved in it, and what his “controllers” promised him if he did his duty. “Terror in Mumbai” reminds us that terrorism is not just a threat to Americans, but the human family as a whole. And as Zakaria states at the end, the solution is not just through military and foreign policy, but through changing the culture of hate.
Matt Fagerholm Matt Fagerholm is a freelance writer, film enthusiast and critic in Chicago.
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