By Ryan Keating-Lambert
This year’s Aussie and Kiwi Film Fest opener is a heartwarming (true) love story of epic proportion. Ali’s Wedding, although sometimes a little too sweet for my taste, is an ambitious and refreshingly unconventional love story of a minority that’s still very misunderstood in Australia.
Directed by Jeffrey Walker (‘Modern Family’) and based on the true story of Osamah Sami, Ali (Sami), the Iraqi son of a Muslim cleric who struggles against the pressures of university and arranged marriage within his close-knit community.
Ali’s Wedding starts off as a comedy, and has some decent moments. Ali himself is hilarious mess – a walking contradiction and magnet for misfortune. Sami shines in the part and is obviously more than comfortable in his own skin. The guy has a real screen presence and it’s clear that his heart was in this and how could it not be? What an unbelievable story.
There are some truly hilarious and cringe-worthy moments in this film as Ali stumbles from one mishap to the next, including his unusual ‘temporary marriage’ to Lebanese med student Dianne (Helana Sawires). There are also a host of minor characters, especially some of the eccentric mosque-goers, who also get some laughs. However, the comedy element isn’t always the film’s strong point. There’s a heavy romance drama there as well, which has its charm, but is sometimes so cheesy that it’s borderline Disney film. The overly saturated and soapy soundtrack by Nigel Westlake doesn’t exactly help either.
Regardless, Ali’s Wedding is a much needed insight into the Australian Muslim community. Sami touches on the strict customs and traditions of Islam, but never ridicules them – he approaches the culture with a wonderful sense of humour. Australians could learn a lot from this. Actually, we could all learn a lot from this.
In some ways, this film reminded me of The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani’s romantic comedy about cultural misunderstandings and the woes of arranged marriage, which came out earlier this year. Both films portray an unbiased look at the Muslim community, and both films are based on true stories. They’re the kind of anti-Hollywood love stories that the world needs right now.
It also reminded me of another Australian classic, Looking for Alibrandi – a coming-of-age tale of a teenage girl growing up in Sydney’s conservative Italian suburbs. Australia is a country born of immigrants, and these stories are just so relatable that it makes you wonder why there aren’t more of them out there.
Final verdict: Ali’s Wedding is a superb feel-good movie and a great selection for this year’s Aussie and Kiwi Film Fest.
Photo: The Riot Act