Director: Jeffrey Walker
Runtime: 110 minutes
I had to see Ali’s Wedding as part of my studies in Australian Cinema. I was by no means dreading the film—any excuse to visit the cinema is a good enough excuse for me—but it was 10:45am on a Tuesday morning and IT was screening just a few doors down. I have been meaning to see IT for what feels like an eternity, and walking past the echoes of frightened screams to my legitimately empty screening was difficult. But was my indifference towards Ali’s Wedding well founded?
As the first Australian Muslim romantic-comedy, Ali’s Wedding has set the bar very high for what I pray is a burgeoning sub genre.
Ali’s Wedding is a snapshot into the chaotic experiences of Ali, an Australian Muslim of Iraqi origin and the son of the local, highly regarded Muslim cleric, Mehdi (Don Hany). In his efforts to make his father proud—whose migration to Australia was by no means an easy feat—Ali lies about his recent results in an examination that would have allowed him to study medicine. He subsequently becomes a ‘fake’ university student and strikes up a relationship with an Australian-born Lebanese woman, Dianne (Helena Sawires), despite being promised in marriage to another. Of course, his lies are revealed near simultaneously, and he must decide whether to appease his family and community’s expectations, or forge his own destiny.
Jeffrey Walker’s direction is certainly to be applauded. While the entirety of the film was shot in Melbourne, he imbues every location with its own life. In Ali’s mosque, the décor is expressive, its vibrancy reflecting the enthusiastic coming together of the Muslim community. Likewise, as Dianne and Ali sit side-by-side watching the ocean, the gentle lapping of the waves and the orange hue of the setting sun makes their physically separated bodies seem much more intimate.
But it is Osamah Sami who is the true star of the film. Osamah co-wrote the screenplay, which is fitting as the film is based on his own true-life experiences, and he also portrays Ali. Sami’s heartfelt pleadings for forgiveness in the film are trumped only by his comedic efforts. His attempts at flirting with Dianne are cringe-worthy at the best of times, and his unfortunately accurate one-liners on Australian culture—‘We will have a temporary marriage, like Australians’—could easily make you fall in love with the story even if it wasn’t true.
And while the film is certainly a thumbs-up for multiculturalism in Australia, it is not at Australians’ expense. Ryan Corr portrays Osamah’s ‘ocker’ sidekick, Wazza. Wazza certainly isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but he attends and partakes in Ali’s wedding at the Mosque, thereby demonstrating Australians’ inherent capacity for compassion and understanding.
And don’t worry; Ali’s Wedding is not overtly political, but it does make you think. We are given a glimpse into Ali’s world, and it is not disdainful of Australian society. It is close-knit and celebratory, negotiating issues of ancestry and identity while trying to prosper in a new country.
I loved this film. If you enjoy simultaneously laughing out loud, crying quietly into a tissue, and learning more about our country’s remarkable ethnic minorities, then go see Ali’s Wedding. It offers a glimpse into a new world practising love and acceptance, and I can’t wait to see more.