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The new movie that's all the rage in Pakistan

Our reporter scores a ticket to 'In the name of God.'

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Why would I drive 4-1/2 hours to see a Pakistani movie?

Well, for starters, the only movie theater in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, was torched by a Sunni mob during sectarian riots four years ago.

But there were other reasons for the trek. I wanted to attend the premier of "Khuda ke Liye" or "In the Name of God," a movie about the religious rift wrenching Pakistan.

The film is being hailed in some segments of Pakistani society as the most important cinematic event in memory. The other draw was the venue: the DHA Cinema, a world-class movie theater, had just opened its doors for the elite of Lahore in "Defense," a posh neighborhood run by the military.

As the title suggests, the movie is about Islam and the battle between two polarized groups – modernized elites carrying the banner of "enlightened moderation" and radicals with their "jihad" – both had claims to the religion.

I took a cab from the house where I was staying. As we pulled up to the theater, the cabbie was as excited as I was. "The last time I saw crowds like this," he bubbled, "was when 'Titanic' came to town."

My initial attempts to get tickets for the première had failed. "In the Name of God" had been sold out for weeks in advance. But there were two showings, one at 9 p.m. and one at 3 p.m. (Bruce Willis in "Live Free or Die Hard" was on at 6 p.m.) I might score a ticket to the matinee, I was told, by just showing up.

I swallowed hard at the price: 250 rupees ($4.15) – ten times that of a regular movie ticket. Once inside, I found a packed house of some 500 immaculately dressed Lahoris, munching on buttered popcorn, bouncing in reclining seats, and enjoying the digital sound system.

For many Pakistanis – or at least those in this theater – the movie offers an explanation for the unrest around them.


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