Ali’s Wedding  is Osamah Sami’s semi-autobiographical romantic comedy that follows the true story of Ali’s (Sami) deception to his family and hour-and-a-half long marriage. It’s not a genre that I would normally rush out to see. But Sami’s story is smart, funny and deserves watching for the mere fact that it’s an accessible comedy about an under-represented community in Australia.
Aussie without the Ocker: Think of quintessential ‘Aussie’ films; Crocodile Dundee, Australia, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Castle. What makes them such iconic representations of the Australian story? Luke Buckmaster says it’s the tropes of self-deprecation, a blunt humor, and determination in the face of adversity. I’d definitely agree, and throw in the underdog story as well. Add in a larrikin and you’ve got a crowd pleaser. Sami has definitely managed to roll all of these into his film, but he adds something else that has been overdue in Aussie film iconography – the migrant experience. Australian audiences have a particular dislike of films if they think they’re in for a lecture on multiculturalism, and this film has cleverly scooted around that with its humor, self-awareness, and use of Aussie values at the core. And why not? It’s a film of the Australian experience, just a more refreshingly diverse one than we’re used to.
Stereotypes and Subtlety: Ali’s (and Sami’s) family migrated from Iran with his Iraqi parents as a child to Australia, building a close migrant community. It is in this community that the story is set, mainly within a mosque in suburban Melbourne. There is little contact with the outside Western world that Ali’s mother bemoans; loose girls and horny boys and all sorts of dangers. Yet where there is discrimination, Sami chooses to highlight it within the community; Lebanese disdain for Iranians, whether Iraqi or Egyptian women can cook better - the sort of stuff that can be churned out in-jokes and caricatures under the umbrella of self-deprecating Aussie humor. Uncomfortable, but Sami uses it to highlight the universality of Otherness. Ali has one bogan friend on the periphery of this story – kind of a token white dude in the film – a ‘see, white dudes aren’t that bad guys, they’re larrikins!’. It’s a clever reverse of stereotypes that Sami subtly points out with his jokes on middle eastern actors only being cast as terrorists – and the blandness of Australian cinematic storytelling so far. A small incident of overt racism is brushed off as no big deal – and when we see the life-and-death situations that Sami’s family went escaped before their migration to Australia, it a racist truckie yelling profanities at you because of your skin color would seem like no big deal. Sami is a clever storyteller who manages to balance all these ideas with humor and sincerity that is both touching and enlightening.
Romance ain’t dead – just different. Part of the appeal of the film is also its comfortable predictability as a balance to this clever commentary on the Australian migrant experience – it’s a romantic comedy first and foremost. Boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, things go well, crises throws a spanner in the works... you’ve seen it before, and Sami follows the trope text-book style. You’ve got a relatable leading man in Ali, who is able to hold the Australian audiences’ metaphorical hand through the culture shock of a love story that introduces new ideas of love, commitment and obstacles to the typical Western boy-gets-girl scenario. Think temporary Muslim marriages, tea ceremonies and more than overbearing families. Though the sincerity sometimes crosses into the realms of mawkishness at points, this can be forgiven through Sami’s clever subtleties in other parts of the story. Maybe emphasizing these moments was his way of drawing connections to universal audiences.
Ali’s Wedding should be celebrated as a refreshingly down to earth Australian film; it not only pokes gentle fun at us but also subtly, and sometimes hilariously, asks us to rethink what the ‘Aussie’ story is. Because you’d think that we’ve changed a bit since Mick Dundee by now.