Ali’s Wedding by Andrew Knight and Osamah Sami
Ali’s Wedding is a pleasurable, light, inclusive, amusing – at least at times- romantic comedy that has been nominated for twenty three prizes- as of this date- most of them related to the Australian Academy of Cinema, Australian Critics Association and other guilds from Down Under, where this film has been one of the best of 2017.
John Milton: “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven”
This quote must be considered when watching this motion picture, for there are aspects that make it endearing, but at the same time, many developments, turns in the plot are preposterous and one can take them in the manner suggested by Milton…with mirth or rejecting them as absurd.
The viewer can think of West Side Story, but without a major conflict, except for the brilliant student who is overwhelmed by the fact that the hero, Ali, says that he has obtained an extraordinary score, investigates, and exposes the protagonist.
The characters involved in this feature are all Muslim, with varying degrees of observance, guided by the clever and humorous Mahdi, Ali’s father, although the younger men and women, born most of them in Australia, where they all live now, are much less conservative overall than their parents.
Ali is the epitome of the romantic figure, a handsome, intelligent, hardworking, respectful, amusing, creative, perseverant young Muslim who studies to gain admittance in medical school, but only receives a grade of about 68 when the results come and on the streets, comrades ask him about the test.
Given that another young man in the community has already stated that he has obtained a splendid score of 95.2- was it? – the hero feels he is forced to report a better performance, for himself, perhaps to some degree in order to make his father proud, spiritual leader as he is, so he says…95.4.
Meanwhile, as he also works in a store, he observes and falls in love with Dianne, a girl who has also been studying for medical school and her test results are better than both men, she has 99 or so, only in the outdated, retrograde, male chauvinist atmosphere of the older men of this community –well, may are only middle aged or younger, but they still act as ancient relics- she is not cherished or honored.
She would say to Ali, at a certain point, that he is the only one who has appreciated and lauded her results, for in the community, they have a gathering where they speak about the achievements of the males- with their inferior performances, when compared with the one of Dianne.
The Muslims honor the two men who have entered Medical School with great scores, but do not even mention the girl, indeed, they even feel – and that includes her father, owner of a fish and chips shop- that women should not bother with studies and such things, they are supposed to support…the men.
Ali is much more enlighted, infatuated, mesmerized by the Lebanese girl born in Australia and they even have a ceremony, in the train station, near the tracks, through which they are – temporarily- married, for a trial period of a few weeks.
Nevertheless, the antiquated, vicious traditions nearly make two-perhaps three or more- victims- for Ali is pushed into an arranged marriage – the one from the title maybe- and he tries to make an escape, actually has a few attempts, but to the merriment of the audience, he seems to be losing.
For instance, he is invited for tea, with his own family, to see the girl he is supposed to marry and when she brings the tray, with the sugar and the cup, he uses them in a manner that he thinks might express his desire to refuse, show disapproval, only to have the many men and women in the room convinced that he is in a hurry to marry.
Some smiles, if not long laughs are provoked by his pretense that he is enrolled in the School of Medicine, where he follows the woman he loves, he is selected by a teacher to try and diagnose a disease, reminding us of Kramer in Seinfeld and his experiences with patients and acting illnesses for students.
The hero is exposed when the other Muslim with a high score – and a real one- asks at the school and learns that the romantic champion is not even enrolled and there is more to increase the pain, for there are photos of Ali with Dianne, as they have been enjoying their trial, temporary marriage and they went bowling and that is anathema.
For those fundamentalists, medieval minds, a woman that goes out bowling, to a dance or film is a loose woman- they also have some strange prejudices, the Lebanese are like this, the Iraqis are like that- and she is forced by the pressure of the zealots and her own father to go to Lebanon, but before that she has a violent argument with Ali, who has lied about the test and with his attitude has destroyed her life.
In Ali’s Wedding we have a few stories within the story, for Mahdi is a talented, creative play writer and he has written an amusing version of the Saddam Hussein story, where his own son has the lead role, but this gets him in trouble, as they travel abroad and authorities suspect terrorist activity.
The same Mahdi has a few stories- he represents the enlighted, peaceful, modern, decent face of Islam- including one with the man who travels with his son and a donkey, through the desert.
When they reach the first town, the son is on the donkey and the people are very upset that the parent has to walk, so they change and in the next city, the inhabitants are again annoyed with the father who travels at ease, while the boy has to walk, so they both walk to the next settlement, where there are other complaints, referring to the poor donkey and the poor man decides to carry the animal…
Mahdi says he would not do that, the moral being that there would always be people who are unhappy with what we do, no matter what we try.