7 September 2017

Digital & Dissected: Ali's Wedding

| Ariel Larkey
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Ali’s Wedding (2017)
Written by: Andrew Knight and Osamah Sami
Directed by: Jeffrey Walker

A comedy of cultures

Ali’s Wedding is Australia’s latest crack at multicultural comedy. Although with minor cracks of its own and not the flawless film some have touted it to be, it still makes for relatively entertaining viewing. In the vein of the recent but slightly lesser Alex and Eve (2015), the film charts the experiences of a sometimes bumbling, albeit sweet and endearing soul, Ali.

Ali lives in Melbourne with his parents, brother and sister. His sister is the smart one; his brother not so much. Bound by both parental and broader community expectations, Ali endeavours to study medicine at the University of Melbourne. He promptly sits the exam and, in his culturally appointed quest to misguidedly meet expectations, our titular protagonist subsequently suffers some significant social stress. However, it is all deemed worthwhile due to Ali’s infatuation with Dianne, who is impressively portrayed by complete newcomer Helana Sawires. A white lie snowballs. Hijincks ensue.

The recognisable and ever-dependable Don Hany (East West 101) stars as Ali’s father Mahdi. As moral compass and guiding light in the pious Muslim community, he is simultaneously Ali’s blessing and his curse – a brilliant example but an exceedingly hard act to follow. A melting-pot meditation on the pressures of family, tradition, culture and religion, Ali’s Wedding is drawn from the personal experiences of writer and star Osamah Sami. Born to Iraqi parents in Iran, his family’s migration to Australia for a better life is anecdotally explored throughout the film. Co-writer Andrew Knight (Hacksaw Ridge, The Water Diviner, Jack Irish, Rake) brings his extensive experience to Sami’s stories. Director Jeffrey Walker, before opting for a move behind the camera, originally cut his film-fangs as Bronson on TV’s Round the Twist and Mirror, Mirror, even landing the role of a young Martin to Hugo Weaving’s character in Proof (1989). Fun facts for your Friday!

Ali’s Wedding has its moments, both humorous and tender, and is an earnest depiction of one of manifold multicultural upbringings true to our Australian community; upbringings which share the similarity of each being different in their own way. The reality of this paradox renders the proceedings broadly relatable, and the potentially stifling effect of family tradition and expectation resonates across religion and culture. Admirably, the film does not shy away from the pitfalls of religion and stiff tradition, highlighting the sexism and hypocrisy, and subtle elitism which can arise within community dogmas. Nevertheless, the film manages to infuse this social comment with the signature mordant quirkiness so commonplace in Australian (and New Zealand) productions.

Ali’s Wedding has been touted as a “glorious antidote to Australia’s depressing film problem”. Our penchant for heavy dramas which explore the darker side of humanity has yielded some, dare I say, most of our best films. Australia has a natural knack for unvarnished and unflinching portrayals of society. Excellent comedies are exceptionally difficult to make, and yet we have also delivered in that department over the years. There are obvious time-tested classics and then more recent standouts such as The Little Death (2014) – an unconventional comedy which dabbles darkly but deftly with difficult subjects. In the way that good comedies do, Ali’s Wedding does comically unpack some tricky topics. Although it loses momentum slightly in the final third, Ali’s Wedding is, for the most part, satisfyingly sincere and endearingly entertaining.

Three out of five runaway tractors.

Screening locally at Dendy Cinemas and Palace Electric.

See also: Alex & Eve, Ronnie Chieng: International Student (TV)

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