Sometimes a film can be about faith without being at all religious; and faith and belief are the underlying themes of the new film "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" that opens in theatres this Friday.
The basic plot is that a visionary sheik (Amr Waked) believes his passion for the peaceful pastime of salmon fishing can enrich the lives of his people, and he dreams of bringing the sport to the not so fish-friendly desert. Willing to spare no expense, he instructs his representative (Emily Blunt) to turn the dream into reality, an extraordinary feat that will require the involvement of Britain’s leading fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor) who happens to think the project both absurd and unachievable.
Overcoming the scientist's basic stance of disbelief in the project, and in the possibilities of his own, life is what drives the film. As the film’s screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy, explained in an interview with The Huffingtonpost: “the film addresses the idea that the impossible can become possible if there is enough belief.”
“What I liked about the novel,” explains Beaufoy, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay of "Slumdog Millionaire", is the fact that this is a vanity project for the sheik, but he is also doing it for a deeper purpose, for the pleasure of fishing and to bring people together and attempt to bring peace between warring tribes.“
The film lightly touches on the conversation between faith and science. The sheik is a Muslim and in a conversation with the scientist, who describes himself as “more of a facts and figures man” he asks: “Why do you fish, why don’t you just buy it at the grocery store. You stand there waiting for sometimes hundreds of hours – why? Because you are a man of faith.”
“At the beginning, the scientist doesn’t have any belief,” explains Ewan McGregor. “He’s got a very practical mind. He is a fisheries scientist, and he’s very repressed. He’s also in what his wife refers to as a ‘functioning marriage’. But then, through meeting the Sheikh and Harriet, he’s brought back to life spiritually. He starts to believe in something."
More broadly Mr. Beufoy hopes that "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" might offer a different story than the media’s current focus on tension in the Mideast: “It is a story of tolerance, of sharing a sense of purpose, even with people of other religions.” Which is something we can all believe in.