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ALI'S WEDDING

SYNOPSIS:
After a white lie spirals out of control, a neurotic, naive and musically gifted Muslim cleric's eldest son, Ali (Osamah Sami) must follow through with an arranged marriage, except he is madly in love with an Australian born-Lebanese girl, Dianne (Helena Sawires). (Based on a true story.)

Review by Louise Keller:
Like The Big Sick's Kumail Nanjiani, Osamah Sami has co-written a romantic comedy (with Hacksaw Ridge screenwriter, Andrew Knight) about his own experiences concerning love and arranged marriages. Punctuated by two winning performances and some charming moments, Ali's Wedding succeeds in its pert depictions of Australian multiculturalism and endearing relationships but needs a few more laughs. Simply put: it's not funny enough. It's all about family expectations; thrown into the mix are some left of field ideas like temporary marriages (Google it) and Saddam The Musical, which add to the complex portrait of an immigrant Muslim family and Ali's romantic misadventures.

We are told that lies have shaped Ali's (Sami) destiny, in his Iraq birthplace, Iran and now in Melbourne, where he aspires to study medicine. It is the lies concerning his entrance exam results, his arranged marriage and ability to conform to the expectations of his traditional Iraqi cleric father Mahdi (Don Hani, excellent) that bring colour to the storyline, and all of which lead Ali onto a different path.

Grounded by realities of loss (lost homelands and siblings), the film begins to establish its direction when Ali makes it clear his eyes are firmly set on Dianne (Helana Sawires, delightful), the super bright daughter of the Lebanese fish and chips shop owner. This is a world in which women play second fiddle to men and the fact that Dianne's highest University entrance exam score is not recognised, is par for the course.

Much of the film's charm lies in the dynamic between Sami and Sawires, whose budding relationship is the mainstay of the film. The establishment of the reality in which the men and women have their own places and dialogues is nicely portrayed and there is authenticity in the depiction of the cultures and traditional views.

Nigel Westlake's blend of Middle Eastern and Western music hits the spot, while Don McAlpine's fine cinematography brings wonderful imagery throughout. The funniest line of dialogue involves the comparison of an Australian-born girl and a dishwasher (in the context of her innocence), while director Jeffrey Walker slickly pieces all the elements together. The ending does not soar as it should but weddings are fun - and Ali's Wedding is no exception.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Good hearted, good natured and good fun, Ali's Wedding is based on what the opening credits describe as 'Based on a true story. Unfortunately.' This economical, dry sense of humour gets us off to a good start and Osamah Sami's larrikin-ish Ali helps keep us in the right frame of mind.

The old traditions and culture of Muslim Australian families is the backdrop for this romantic comedy, but it also touches on real life drama, providing some ballast. The arranged marriage custom is as old as the hills and it has had a good workout recently with films such as 2015's Unindian ('marry your own kind' version) and The Big Sick (2017). And like the latter, Ali's Wedding derives its authenticity from the mix of true events and inspired writing.

There are some moments when subtlety is abandoned and scenes are played for laughs, but these are few and the film is rescued by the excellent performances. Sami's likeable self portrait is enhanced by fine supporting work by Don Hany as his community leader dad, Mahdi, Helena Sawires as the lovely Dianne for whom Ali falls head over heels, Rodney Afif as Haj Karim, father of the girl Ali should marry, and all the other cast.

Although director Jeffrey Walker holds on to the rails of the genre, the veracity of the story allows him some room to play, which he does with verve. He is greatly assisted by Don McAlpine's wonderfully fluid cinematography and Nigel Westlake's big-money score.

It's a window into a culture (set around a Melbourne mosque) that is regarded with unease in Australia for its association with terrorism and unbending religious rules, but the Australian made & financed film's early award win at the Australian Writers' Guild and the audience award Sydney Film Festival makes a mockery of Tim Minchin's singing suggestion that Australia is a bit racist and bigoted as a country. It's Minchin who comes off as bigoted against his own Australia ...

Foodies will also note the rivalry between Iraqi and Lebanese cuisine; in Australia you can get both.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

ALI'S WEDDING (M)
(Aust, 2017)

CAST: Osamah Sami, Don Hany, Helena Sawires, Robert Rabiah, Khaled Khalafalla, Shenaveh, Rodney Afif, Ghazi Alkinani, Majid Shokor

PRODUCER: Sheila Jayadev, Helen Panckhurst

DIRECTOR: Jeffrey Walker

SCRIPT: Andrew Knight, Osamah Sami

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald McAlpine

EDITOR: Geoffrey Lamb

MUSIC: Nigel Westlake

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Heath

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 31, 2017







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