Adoration Explores The Nature Of Terrorism And Martyrdom


Canadian Jewish News
May 6 2009

In his 12th feature film, Adoration, Canadian director Atom Egoyan
veers off into the harsh terrain of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Rachel
(Rachel Blanchard) and Sami (Noam Jenkins) in their bedroom. (video)

Scheduled to open in Toronto on May 8, Adoration is Egoyan’s first
overtly political movie since Ararat, which turned on the 1915
Armenian genocide.

Adoration is based on a terrorist incident in April 1986 in which a
Jordanian national of Palestinian origin, Nizar Hindawi, attempted
to plant Semtex plastic explosives aboard an El Al plane en route
from London to Tel Aviv.

Hindawi, who had ties with Syria’s intelligence services, placed
the bomb in the handbag of one of the passengers, Ann-Marie Murphy,
his pregnant Irish girlfriend.

A simple, apolitical person, she had no idea that she was cynically
being used as a pawn in a deadly struggle. If Murphy had made it past
security guards, Hindawi would have detonated the bomb, killing some
400 people.

This is Egoyan’s point of departure. In a series of scenes that frame
Adoration, the Irish woman, known here as Rachel (Rachel Blanchard),
faces an Israeli guard as she tries to board flight 016. In a thick
Israeli accent, he asks her a number of routine questions. Her answers
set off alarm bells, and she is not permitted to get on the aircraft.

Fast forwarding, Egoyan focuses on Sabine (Arsinee Khanjian), a
tormented Toronto high school French teacher from Lebanon who gives
her students a translation exercise on the Hindawi affair.

Much to Sabine’s consternation, the assignment has an unsettling
effect on one student, Simon (Devon Bostick), an orphan who pretends
to be the son of the Irish woman, and on her career.

Simon reads his essay in class and then posts it on the Internet. The
reaction triggers an emotional debate on chat lines: is Hindawi a
monster or a hero?

After a Holocaust survivor condemns Hindawi, a neo-Nazi praises him
as a hero. Their respective opinions symbolize the gamut of views on
this explosive issue.

At once dark and mysterious, and distinguished by understated
performances, Adoration shifts between the terrorist incident and
its unforeseen repercussions in Toronto two decades later.

Egoyan’s film, which is typically opaque and detached, explores
interlocking themes ranging from the complexities of convoluted
relationships to the nature of terrorism, martyrdom, victimhood,
western penetration of Muslim lands, Islamic extremism and modern

In touching on these diverse but connected topics, Egoyan adopts a
cool, neutral tone, refraining from declaring his own sympathies.

His neutrality may be disturbing to some viewers, but it heightens
tensions and endows Adoration with a certain edge.