Torn, the Film: When Insult is Added to Injury

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

There is no greater pain than losing a child. It is - by far - the absolute worst thing a parent can face. In fact, there is no word for it in the English language, such as "widow" or "orphan," because it is usually not supposed to happen. But as my wife and I, sadly, know too well, it does happen - to the devastation of the surviving parents. Thus, the set up for the independent film "Torn" struck a very deep (and raw) nerve for me.

Two teenagers, among many others, were killed by a bomb in a shopping mall: one was of Pakistani descent and the other of White American descent. Their grieving mothers, Maryam and Lea (played by Mahnoor Baloch and Dendrie Taylor), become friends, but only to have that friendship torn apart when the authorities suspect the Pakistani boy, Walter Munsef, to be the bomber. "How can I be your friend?" Lea asks Maryam. "Your son killed Eddie."

Yet, the tables are then turned, when authorities later come to suspect Lea's son, Eddie, as the bomber. "How does it feel, now?" Maryam, in contempt, asks Lea.  "How do you like everyone accusing you?"

"Torn" gives viewers great insight into how it feels to be the subject of prejudice and stereotype simply because of your faith. The FBI Agent, played by Sharon Washington, says in the film: "I got a bomb and a Pakistani kid, so I'm sure you can appreciate where we're gonna have to go with this." And when the authorities do, in fact, "go there," the Munsef house is vandalized ("Terrorists go home" is spray painted on their garage, and a brick is thrown in their window); Maryam, a Realtor, loses clients; and Walter's father, Ali - unjustly suspected in the wake of 9/11 - longs to move back to Pakistan. All these situations are rooted in the real-life experiences of American Muslims post 9/11.

Yet, more than this, "Torn" does a good job showing the complex reality of the lives of ordinary Americans, regardless of their faith, in today's world, and it challenges the viewer to put themselves in the shoes of the other and understand things from a different perspective. It is a great film that is worth watching and adding to your collection of good, thought-provoking cinema.

"Torn" opened in NYC on October 18, and it will play in California on October 25. For more information on the film, visit:

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