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Film Review: Ali’s Wedding

Ali’s Wedding has been called Australia’s first “Muslim Rom-Com” movie, and for writer, director and actor Osamah Sami, this description is a sweet victory. The Point Magazine caught up with Sami before the film’s upcoming release at the end of this month.

A community reflected in film 

“You expect a movie with ‘Ali’ in the title to be ‘Ali’s bombs’ or ‘Ali’s four wives’; so, it was fantastic feeling to tell a real, true story on a daily life basis about love, comedy and romance. The fact we were finally able to have a ‘Muslim’ label on it made it sweeter and unexpected,” Sami told The Point Magazine.

Ali's Wedding is based on the true story of writer Osamah Sami, who also plays Ali, the Melbourne-based son of a Muslim cleric who tells a lie that leads to a domino effect of subsequent bizarre events. The screenplay by Sami and Andrew Knight (Hacksaw Ridge, Rake, Jack Irish) tells a humorous, authentic and poignant tale about family life in multicultural Australia. The story deals with arranged marriage, love, religion and family pressures, and how to live to one’s true calling.

Sami said he wrote the film originally for his community, which he defines variously as Middle Eastern, Arabic-speaking, Iraqi, and Muslim.

“I wanted my community and religion reflected in a positive light for a change. I was sick, and tired, and hurt by negative portrayals. It wasn’t fair. So, I thought, what is most powerful tool we have, and of course the pen is mightier than sword, so I wanted to do it through the power of the story.”

But he said a love story can also transcend those cultural identifiers and be a story for everyone. 

“You want to give a fresh take on life in the modern western world. It could have been a Jewish/ Asian love story or an Eastern European or Catholic – you forget the race and religion of protagonist once you’re invested in their story. That’s our intention. You get transported into another world and while its foreign, but it’s also yours.”

“I wanted my community and religion reflected in a positive light for a change. I was sick, and tired, and hurt by negative portrayals. It wasn’t fair. So, I thought, what is most powerful tool we have, and of course the pen is mightier than sword, so I wanted to do it through the power of the story.”

– Osamah Sami

Critical acclaim

Ali’s Wedding recently won the 2017 Sydney Film Festival Audience Award for Best Feature and was selected for the Melbourne Film Festival and CinefestOZ (WA). Sami said the response to the film, even before it has officially premiered, has been overwhelming with a quarter of a million views of the trailer on Facebook.

“People (have been) saying they are so excited to see a film that is true, and represents them, and a film where a Muslim character doesn’t blow up or die halfway through.”

 “We are part of the Australian narrative, and that’s really important – it’s not only Bondi beach, there’s a multitude of other tales giving breath to the soul of this land that need to be seen and heard.”

The film offers a refreshing perspective the interplay of cultural differences in Australia, especially at a time where there is often a tendency to represent all Muslims as the same. The character of Dianne (Helena Sawires), who plays Ali's love interest, comes from a Lebanese family, while Ali’s come from an Iraqi family, which allows for some the cultural tensions – and certain comedic effects - between Lebanese-Iraqi relations to play out, with an Australian twist.

Sami said he thought it was important to show these differences and tensions within communities.

“The more specific we get the more universal it gets. We didn’t go out to ridicule or criticize the community. We wanted to give a truthful honest funny portrayal of life in Australia. We wanted to show that the clerics have fights and struggles, because we’ve all got our own unique fingerprint. And that’s really important, we can’t paint religions or cultures with broad strokes and that’s the danger when we paint one community as one thing, it treats them as objects instead of human beings.”

One of Sami’s favourite moments came when they were shooting a scene in a stage set of the mosque.

“ I was looking around the hue of colours of the people and cast and I thought I haven’t been to a film set and seen this. Finally, a missing piece of Australia has been put into the puzzle – and in a positive light. Looking at those faces gave me a lot of joy, and made me feel like we are making something special here.”

 

The film is in cinemas in Australia 31 August

 

The Point

Ali’s Wedding has been called Australia’s first “Muslim Rom-Com” movie

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