Daniel Pearl’s father criticizes “A Mighty Heart”

In June, FP had the chance to talk with Angelina Jolie about her film “A Mighty Heart.” In it, she plays Mariane Pearl, wife of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Jolie discussed what she hoped viewers would get out of Marianne’s story: Her voice at this moment is so important because she is ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
599266_070919_pearl_05.jpg
599266_070919_pearl_05.jpg

In June, FP had the chance to talk with Angelina Jolie about her film "A Mighty Heart." In it, she plays Mariane Pearl, wife of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Jolie discussed what she hoped viewers would get out of Marianne's story:

Her voice at this moment is so important because she is somebody who, when confronted by such brutality and terrorism, somehow kept clear and was able to see the bigger picture. She didn't jump to fear and hate, with good guys and bad guys. There are victims on both sides of conflict. She understood that she had to fight for the future of her son.

But in a Guardian op-ed running today, Daniel's father Judea Pearl argues that the film goes too far in the direction of moral relativism, particularly in drawing parallels between what happened to his son and the treatment of Guantánamo detainees:

In June, FP had the chance to talk with Angelina Jolie about her film “A Mighty Heart.” In it, she plays Mariane Pearl, wife of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Jolie discussed what she hoped viewers would get out of Marianne’s story:

Her voice at this moment is so important because she is somebody who, when confronted by such brutality and terrorism, somehow kept clear and was able to see the bigger picture. She didn’t jump to fear and hate, with good guys and bad guys. There are victims on both sides of conflict. She understood that she had to fight for the future of her son.

But in a Guardian op-ed running today, Daniel’s father Judea Pearl argues that the film goes too far in the direction of moral relativism, particularly in drawing parallels between what happened to his son and the treatment of Guantánamo detainees:

John M. Heller/Getty

You can see traces of this logic in the film’s comparison of Danny’s abduction with Guantánamo (it opens with pictures from the prison) and of al-Qaida militants with CIA agents. You can also see it in the comments of the movie’s director, Michael Winterbottom, who wrote in the Washington Post that A Mighty Heart and his previous film, The Road to Guantanamo, were very similar: “There are extremists on both sides who want to ratchet up the levels of violence and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this.”

Drawing a comparison between Danny’s murder and the detention of suspects in Guantánamo is precisely what the killers wanted, as expressed in both their emails and the murder video. […]

Danny’s tragedy demands an end to this logic. There can be no comparison between those who take pride in the killing of an unarmed journalist and those who vow to end such acts. Moral relativism died with Daniel Pearl, in Karachi, on January 31 2002.

Having seen the film, I’m not sure that the parallels are portrayed as starkly as the elder Pearl suggests. But with a slew of war-on-terror films to be released this fall, his warning against lazy suggestions of moral equivalence deserves to be taken seriously.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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