Harry Maxwell and Sam Walpole | 28/08/2017
Ali’s Wedding is a romantic comedy that combines the familiar and the new to deliver something wholly unexpected.
A tranquil farm paddock is suddenly broken by the loud noises of an old, rusty tractor and police sirens. This introduces us to Ali (played by Osamah Sami), a young man driving a tractor haphazardly through a farm field in a desperate attempt to get to the airport. He is quickly cornered by the police car, between two rows of vines. When he fails to stop the tractor and is about to crash into the police car, Ali desperately throws himself through the air in a reckless act, symbolic of his own romantic ideals. From this very first scene, we get sense of the young, romantic hero who will do anything, including the absurd, to be with the love of his life, the inimitable Diane.
There’s something familiar in this set up, as we trudge through the standard story of a romantic comedy. The film seems to trend towards farce, in the course of which the characters are humiliated, and finally redeemed. This familiarity, however, is altered by the context: Ali is an Australian Muslim, of Iraqi descent, desperately chasing after Diane, a Lebanese Australian. This dynamic allows the film to explore the nuances of the Muslim community by examining the different elements within it. This includes the tensions between family expectations of Ali becoming a doctor and his own wishes to be himself, the expectation to marry within the Iraqi community and for Ali to choose his own destiny. The humor is often derived from clashes from both within the Muslim community and with the broader Australian community. In this way, the film might seem like almost a comedy of manners, but its context gives something more.
Indeed, Ali’s Wedding moves beyond the familiar in an unusual setting with moments of genuine tragedy that pepper the film. The film at times switches between Ali’s life in Australia and the Middle East. Through this, we see glimpses of the genuine hardship and pain that led his family to Australia. This infuses the narrative and the characters with substance that is too often missing in romantic comedies, allowing the audience to empathise with the characters and their wider community.
Throughout all of this the film is fundamentally irreverent, in the vein of much of Australian film, and it often pokes fun at different aspects of Ali's life and the societal expectations placed upon him by various people around him. Its irreverency, whilst also exploring some serious topics, is what makes it a unique film. As viewers are told in the opening, it is all based upon the true story of Osameh Sami, his father and family. That makes it all the more touching and, indeed, some of the funnier moments all the more enjoyable
Ali’s Wedding is an entertaining, irreverent and in the end touching story about family, love and growing up in the Muslim community in Australia.