Friday, 24 August 2018

Ali’s Wedding

Superficially speaking, Ali’s Wedding is a Melbourne based comedy about the lacklustre love life of a young Muslim. And as such comedies go, it is pretty good and often quite funny. However, I will argue Ali’s Wedding represents much more than a comedy: it is a movie about Muslims, who live in a country that is often looking at them rather negatively, that actively try to reach out to the majority and tell them: look, this is what we are; look, we are trying to lead a normal life; look, we are all quite alike.
I am writing this during a week in which an Australian senator spoke aloud, in a parliament session, stating all sorts of negativities about Muslims and Muslim immigration. I will not give him the benefit of repeating those here, but I will point at the icing on the cake: explicit usage of the term “final solution”.
It makes me cringe to think what ordinary Australian Muslims think after such blatant demonstrations of Australian racism. Racism is rife in Australia, as any immigrant of non Anglo origins will tell you using numerous examples from day to day life. However, it is only in recent times that the ultra racists, those who are not ashamed of their racism, have allowed themselves to speak out loud. They know they will no longer pay a price for their racism. They know our society has changed to the point of them earning brownie points through being openly racist. And now we got to the point where parliament reflects the fact.
In the face of such hostility, the Muslim community reaching out with Ali’s Wedding represents, in my mind, the best possible answer.

So let’s get to the movie at hand, shall we?
The basic plot is simple. Ali, a Muslim living in Melbourne, is what you and I will call an ordinary guy living an ordinary life. Like many people growing in immigrants’ families, his has high expectations of him; they’d like him to be a doctor. Alas, Ali is no doctor material, but he feels obliged to play his intended role.
When a fellow Muslim community guy of a similar background announces his high score at the medical school (Melbourne Uni) entry exam, Ali fabricates his retaliation by faking his own score. That, in turn, only sets the bar of expectations higher, with everything that one can imagine coming out as a result of this lie.
That’s it for the basic plot engine. The main event, however, is not a guy having to deal with the ramifications of his lie, but rather exposing us viewers to Muslim community life. We witness what happens at the mosque when the community gathers (or, as Ali’s Wedding presents it, when Melbourne’s taxi drivers unite). We witness how Muslim females are treated: the top scorer on that medical exam was not Ali’s competitor, not even Ali’s fictitious score; it was a Muslim woman (and, later on, the subject of Ali’s love). We witness the way the Muslim community does things such as matching its younger people in weddings + celebrate the weddings later on. And we witness how not all Muslims are alike, yet pretty much all of them are normal people just trying to live a normal life. All is presented with a smile on the face.
To its credit, Ali’s Wedding does not skip over the more contentious. Early on in the movie, the would be doctor (Ali) is asked whether he will treat a Jew; he gives the obligatory answer (of course) in scene that does feel a tad contrived yet is also, well, obligatory given our movie’s agenda. Ali’s Wedding shows us how the woman with the highest medical exam score is prevented from studying medicine on account to being a woman. Or how, later on, she is sent for an extended “reeducation” period in Lebanon following her contamination by Aussie culture. Both of her ordeals are accepted almost with no protest by the Muslims in the film, with the exception of Ali (and the woman herself, though she cooperates), which goes to show that there is still plenty of room for progress in contemporary Muslim culture, even in its Australian incarnation [and I'm well aware of the fact merely making such a statement can land me the wrath of the left; to which I will point out, would you trade places with that woman?]. Point is, Ali’s Wedding does not attempt to wipe these off the table; it does seem to make an effort to present Australia's Muslim culture the way it really is.
The end result of this mishmash of classic romantic comedy elements, that innocence of low key Australian cinema, and the portrayal of the Muslim community in Australia is, to my mind, quite powerful. Which makes for a pretty entertaining as well as educational film.
I thoroughly loved Ali’s Wedding.
Best scene:
If you think Australia is bad with the way it treats its minorities, just wait till you see what happens to Ali and his team when they visit the USA for a sporting event.
Which reminds me: Ali’s Wedding claims to be based on true events. I don’t know how loyal to the truth the movie is, but during the credits we are provided with real life evidence of what happened during that extremely brief visit to the USA. And that was before Trump!
Ali’s Wedding proved to be educational comedy of the type that keeps having me going back into thinking about it. I will support such an effort with a score of 4 out of 5 crabs.
I particularly recommend the movie to all the Bob Katter, One Nation, and Peter Dutton voters out there.

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