Ali (Osamah Sami) is the Iraqi-born son of a Muslim cleric who lives with his slightly zany family in a Melbourne suburb. Being the son of a locally admired cleric (played by Don Hany), Ali feels extra pressure to succeed. So he aims to be the good son, and the good Muslim. And a medical doctor. There's only one problem. Ali isn't really bright enough to become a doctor, doesn't really want to be a doctor, and after taking the medical entrance exam and receiving an abysmally average mark, has no hope of becoming a doctor.
But rather than disappoint his father, and his father's congregation, Ali tells a lie. A whopper. He tells everyone he aced the exam and will study medicine at Melbourne University. Ali quickly falls into the quicksand of his lie and has to fight against the truth coming out.
Adding to Ali's big mess is that his parents have arranged a bride for him. A lovely local girl who is happy to wed the supposed medical student. But Ali is not interested, he's smitten for Lebanese-Australian Dianne (Helana Sawires), who actually is a medical student, and whose overbearing father will allow nothing to do with Ali. So Ali must find a way out of his lie - one that leads to a future with Dianne.
Billed as Australia's first Muslim rom-com, Ali's Wedding is based on the life of Osamah Sami, who co-wrote the script (in addition to starring as Ali). Directed by Jeffrey Walker and co-written by Andrew Knight, the film deals in standard fare: forbidden love, living up to expectations - but these themes are given a fresh feel thanks to being placed against the backdrop of a Muslim Australian community.
And this community is at the core of the film, a community shaped in distant countries, but now melded by Australia and determined to succeed in it. But the film doesn't get all preachy; the absurd nature of Ali's lie and his comic attempts at maintaining it set the tone. Whether it's the farcical tea ceremony for Ali's arranged marriage (where Ali deliberately tries to upset his potential father-in-law, but instead endears himself more), or the questionable theological advice Ali's father dispenses to his flock, nothing is sacred and nothing is off-limits for some good-natured ribbing.
The love story between Ali and Dianne is the only thing treated with anything like seriousness, aided by two very good performances from Sami and Sawires. The rest of the cast also performs admirably, with many new faces scattered amongst some very familiar.
Ali's Wedding offers a crazy story and a lot of laughs. There are times, particularly towards the end, when it reaches too hard for an extra laugh, instead of letting the story just be told. But overall, it's fresh and cheerful, with a lot of heart. Here is a film the likes of which we need more of: stories told from different perspectives, stories about our country.