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Challenging Film, "The War Within,"
to Screen at UW-Eau Claire Jan. 25-28

RELEASED: Jan. 18, 2007

scene from The War WithinEAU CLAIRE — "The War Within" (2005) — "a taut tale of terrorism and the fundamentalist ties that bind" (Washington Post) — will be presented Jan. 25-28 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The film will screen at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday in Davies Theatre.

An HDNet Films production, "The War Within" is the story of Hassan (co-writer Ayad Akhtar in his debut performance), a Pakistani engineering student in Paris who is apprehended by Western intelligence services for suspected terrorist activities. Imprisoned and tortured, Hassan is provoked to action. Following his release he embarks upon a terrorist mission, surreptitiously entering the United States to join a cell based in New York City. On the morning of the planned attack, all members of the cell are arrested except Hassan and the cell's charismatic leader, Khalid. Hassan takes refuge with Sayeed, an unsuspecting childhood friend, who is living the American dream with his family in New Jersey. As each day passes, Hassan finds himself torn between his religious beliefs and his growing feelings for Sayeed and his family. A profound human and political drama unfolds as the audience observes Hassan's state of mind as he tries to decide whether or not to carry out his deadly mission.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Ayad Akhtar graduated from Brown University with a degree in theater. A resident of New York City since 1997, Akhtar is also an alumnus of the graduate film program at Columbia University, where he graduated with a degree in directing, and where he met Joseph Castelo, who co-wrote and directed "The War Within."

"When asked why I decided to make this movie, my response is always the same," Castelo said. "In a world overwhelmed with fear, in a world wounded by horrific terrorist attacks, I can't imagine making any other film. Our fears are real. But they are compounded by a willful denial — on all sides of the fray — of understanding.

"I understand the reluctance to extend sympathy to those who wish to do us harm, but I am a firm believer in the necessity and the power of empathy," Castelo said. "Without an understanding informed by empathy, we are not manned to face the new world in which we have found ourselves."

"It's our decision, as artists, to extend to this character an attempt to understand him," Akhtar said, "knowing full well that he might well never do the same for us. But isn't this the meaning of the artistic act?"

"'The War Within' never preaches," wrote the Washington Post. "Instead, bolstered by strong performances, it teases out complex and uncomfortable questions about faith and the impact of American actions on the rest of the world. The filmmakers may not judge Hassan, but they don't let him off the hook, either. Call it a portrait of a mild-mannered zealot, one that seeps under the skin and unsettles the nerves."

In English and Urdu with English subtitles, the 93-minute film (rated R) was shot in high-definition digital video.

Admission is $2 for International Film Society members and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff and $1 for UW-Eau Claire students. Tickets are available at the University Service Center, 715-836-3727, and in Davies Center's east lobby and at the door.

The film is sponsored by the International Film Society.

-30-

JS/NW

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