Little white lies are a unique aspect of the human condition, because there usually is never anything small or innocent about them. As most caring mothers eventually tell their children, ‘There is no such thing as a little white lie; all lies are lies.’ Mark Twain even attempts to introduce the notion of the good lie in his classic tale of Huckleberry Finn, but the reality is that regardless of the outcome or the intention, a lie is a lie. Ali’s Wedding weighs out this moral conundrum of the little white lie that exists within the human experience from the opening segment to the conclusion of this true story. Is there such thing as a good or an innocent lie?
Ali (Osamah Sami) is the eldest son of a local Muslim cleric in the suburbs of Melbourne. Even though he loves his father, his role as the religious leader’s son adds to the pressure for him to succeed in medicine. His family and the local Arabic community look to him to become an affluent doctor in Australia. After sitting the entrance exam to medical school, he receives the news that he has failed and will not be attending university. As he goes to deliver the news to his father, he is confronted by another young man within the local mosque who did exceptionally well on the exam. This momentary bout of pride causes Ali to tell a big lie that he had passed the exam with high marks. This deception becomes the catalyst for a ripple effect that reverberates throughout the tight-knit immigrant community and his life. Maintaining this facade is critical for the sake of retaining the pride of his father and opens the door to having a relationship with one of the young women in the mosque. Dianne (Helana Sawires) actually did score the highest on the university test and besides going onto university, she is intrigued by the affections of the cleric’s son. This young man must determine what to do as this innocent lie turns into an insurmountable mountain of problems for Ali and his family.
Similar to what was achieved through the release of The Big Sick, Osamah Sami and Andrew Knight has delivered a new twist on the rom-com by placing it within the Muslim community. His story of young love and the moral challenges brought about by cultural expectations is an uncommon glimpse into the world of religion and the life of immigrants adjusting to a new way of life. Ali’s Wedding contains many of the trappings of this genre that make things predictable and reliant on quirky twists to drive the story forward, but the fact that this is a true story does provide something fresh for audiences.
What director Jeffrey Walker (Dance Academy: The Movie) was able to capture with this look-see into the Muslim and Arabic communities was the humanity of this passionate people group. The personal elements of the multiple family units provide the platform for exceptional comedy and drama. Due to the political structure and religious views of the world, this has been a community that has been marginalised in the film. Walker is able to point to the heart of the families and show that we are all more alike than we might be willing to admit.
The strength of story and direction are supported by a relatively unknown, but talented cast. They may not be household names around the world, but Australian television mainstays Don Hany and Frances Duca deliver a beautiful depiction of Ali’s Iraqi-born parents. Alongside a multitude of character actors who portray the rich Arabic heritage and the various countries represented in this local religious microcosm. These all provide the necessary cultural mix for the budding forbidden romance of Ali and Dianna. Actors Sami and Sawires’ performances and chemistry were the reasons that this film stood out from other rom-coms on the market this year.
From the innocent looks and the slight touch of their hands, their love provides the magical connection that should be the motivation for audiences to seek out and see this independent film gem.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Is there such thing as a good lie? This is the moral dilemma that opens Ali’s Wedding and continues to be asked throughout the film. Like the central character of the film, the reality comes down to the old statement, honesty is the best policy.
‘For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.’ Luke 8:17
Usually, the person who asks the question of the existence of a ‘good lie’ is looking for justification for their own moral failings. This may be a confronting statement for some, but for those who have lived through the repercussions of an untruth, it is well… the truth.
When confronted with the difficulties in life, being truthful in all things may bring some short-term pain, but it will provide peace of mind. Also, it leaves the person with nothing to have to cover up in the future.
When it comes down it, Mum was right. A lie is a lie. ‘Just truth tellin’!’