Ali’s WeddingDirected by Jeffrey WalkerWritten by Andrew Knight and Osamah Sami110 minutes, rated M Cinemas everywhere
Australia has barely begun to mine the great stories within our migrant experience, which is odd and frustrating, given we have six million of them. Is there another country where migration has had such a profound impact in the past 70 years? There have been a few provocative, thoughtful films in the past decade (Lucky Miles, Alex and Eve, Down Under), but audiences are reluctant with all Australian films, not just those they think might contain a lecture.
Osamah Sami portrays a more nerdy version of himself in Ali’s Wedding.
Ali’s Wedding might change that. It’s a genuinely funny, sweetly human Australian comedy about one migrant’s story. It needs no excuses: it’s almost pitch-perfect for Australian tastes, perhaps because it has been shepherded by some of our best comic talent – notably writer Andrew Knight, a veteran of TV comedy, and producer Tony Ayres, who helped to develop the script over seven years.
In that sense this is a hybrid: director Jeffrey Walker brings plenty of TV comedy experience to his first feature, but he’s aided by having the great Don McAlpine behind the camera. Nearly every Australian actor with a hint of Middle Eastern heritage (and some who just look like they might have) gets a guernsey in a film in which half the action takes place within a suburban mosque in Melbourne.
The catalyst for this is Osamah Sami, whose story this is. He was born in Iran, after his Iraqi parents fled the Iran-Iraq war. A short sequence shows his father being tortured by Saddam’s goons, their disillusion with Iran and the flight to Australia. Little Ali (Daniel Dadrasan) is fascinated on the plane by his first sight of girls with uncovered arms. None of this is laboured, but the torture moment tells us that nothing will be glossed over either.
Ten years later, Ali (played by Sami) is a handsome young student with the hopes of an entire community on his shoulders. Will his marks be good enough to get into medicine, his father Mahdi (Don Hany) asks? Mahdi is the moderate cleric of the mosque across the road from their house.
The family is diverse: one brother died before they left Iran; another, Mohsen (Khaled Khalafalla) is a foul-mouthed mechanic who doesn’t try to please his parents. Younger sister Ramona (Asal Shenavehzadeh) knows she’s the bright one and that Ali will never get into medicine.
Faced with disappointing results, he lies and becomes the hero of everyone at the mosque – including the girl he adores, the beautiful Dianne (Helana Sawires). She is bright but her father won’t allow her to study medicine. Too many “horny boys”, he tells Ali.
There are so many ways Ali’s Wedding could have gone off the rails. Comic scenes in a mosque? The funnier they make them, the more they might offend every Muslim in Australia. And who would believe a mosque where the imam, Mahdi, writes a comic play to be performed by the worshippers, titled Saddam: The Musical.
All true, according to Sami. Almost everything in the movie happened, including his deportation from America, when Homeland Security failed to see the funny side of said musical.
Much of the film’s success is down to Sami’s winning performance. He’s completely charming as a more nerdy version of himself and he gets good comic support. The romance, while chaste, explores some interesting boundaries – such as the possibility of “temporary marriage” and the subtleties of Muslim divorce.
The performances are pushed for comic effect – as in Frances Duca’s cheek-pinching turn as Ali’s mother – but not in a way that’s likely to offend. Sami and Knight get away with a lot by keeping the viewpoint firmly within the family and community. Much that can be said only in private then becomes available for comedy – although that does not mean all Australian Muslims will love it.
The film makes a fairly unsubtle distinction between moderates and hardliners in the character of an ambitious cleric played by Majid Shokor. But to many non-Muslims, the revelation will be the idea that a Muslim sense of humour is alive and accessible to those outside the fold. Audiences that respond with similar generosity will be well-rewarded.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.