Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The last time Director Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks came together for a project, they came up with the highly entertaining but poignant flick. Seems to me they liked what came out of their collaboration and came out with another beaut of a film called The Terminal. The story revolves around Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) a visitor who just planed in from a tiny Eastern European state called Krakozhia. Un fortunately while he was still in the air on the way to the U.S., a group of rebel soldiers had risen up in arms and overthrew the present government, killing the president and cabinet members in the process of doing so. Thus being with a country of origin in turmoil his visa and passport was sequestered by the Homeland Security people and barred him from ever leaving the airport. Instead of breaking his spirit during his almost ten months' stay inside the airport with surly New Yorkers, what happened was quite the opposite. His natural resilience, patience, hard work, and good nature transformed many of those working inside the airport showing them, by example, the importance of these virtues. I'm not sure if Mr. Spielberg intended to show the stark contrast between white Americans and naturalized citizens is that the latter seemed more eager to engage a lonely immigrant into conversation rather than the former who never gave Mr. Navorski the time of day (no offense meant to white Americans). Two characters in the persons of airline stewardess Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and airport boss Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) afforded him the best and worst experience in his entire stay in JFK airport. Barring the important friendships that he made with the airport staff, he got a lot more out of his dealings with these two people who made his temporary, though long, stay in America more than he ever expected.

Mr. Nasseri, the real life Mr. Navorski

The movie was based on a true story of Merhan Karimi Nasseri, a half-Iranian, half-British who's been staying at the Charles de Gaulle airport France since 1988. He was left homeless after a series of incidents that made him a persona non grata in every station that he went. He was booted out of Iran without a passport after a brief return from England for protesting against the shah. Then he went to Europe, where he transferred from one country after another seeking political asylum. in several countries. In 1981, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Belgium finally gave him the refugee credentials he sought but it was stolen along with his passport and briefcase in a Paris train station. He tried to fly to London but was denied entry by immigration officers and sent back to France. Since he didn't have any papers with him, Nasseri could not prove who he was. And since he didn't have his refugee credentials he couldn't offer proof of his refugee status he thereby barred from entering France. Without any official documents on his person the authorities were at a loss where to deport him so they moved him into the holding area for travelers without papers, the Zone d'attente. He's still staying at the airport up until now. You could read the accounts of this strange story that inspired Director Steven Spielberg to do this film in wikipedia.org, Entertainment News and geektimes.com.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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