Ali’s Wedding

110 min.

Did I watch this before, or is the story just too familiar? Which would be sad, because why are multiple people in the twenty-first century still telling their children which career and which life partner to pick?

Alis Wedding imdbThis story is based on real life events, with the author playing the male lead – and I guess originator of the confusion created by lying. First he lies about getting into medicine (he doesn’t), then ends up engaged to someone he doesn’t want to be engaged to, and then there’s the temporary marriage to someone else. Oh, and being banned from the USA for a play, but that might have been the result of the man’s honesty.

All this might make it sound like a comedy of errors, but underneath always runs the line of being stuck between cultures. Ali’s Iraqi in Australia, and no matter how much his father knows about many things; he doesn’t understand that his son doesn’t want to become a doctor and doesn’t want an arranged marriage. He’s not the only one suffering, and the film gives a bit of room to others to show so.

This time, there’s a happy ending (in a way), but this film might serve as a reminder that there’s plenty people stuck, and that some things can’t be solved by musicals in mosques (honestly, does that happen? The more you know).

Ali’s Wedding, Netflix 2017

 

 

Amal Unbound

I watched from the window as the boys tumbled out of the brick schoolhouse across the field from us.

This story sometimes feels a bit too much like those introductions to subjects in school books, but is enticing enough to not be bothered by that.

It’s a short story as well: I checked twice if I didn’t happen to download just the first book, or even an incomplete version (I’m so sorry library, it’s me that has the mistrust, not you that deserve it). In 166 pages Amal’s story is told.

She is a young teenager that lives in a small Pakistani village and dreams of becoming a teacher. Her entire life is turned upside down when she says no to a (blackmailing) landlord, moving her from future potential teacher to indentured servant.

This story is inspired by Malala Yousafzai, and as mentioned before, sometimes it shows. Through hardship this young girl learns things and acquires a new view of the world. For that second part (unless you come from a small Pakistani village as well), you should have a look at the novella.

Amal Unbound, Aisha Saeed, Penguin Books 2018

Coco

109 min.

Is de kerstvakantie compleet zonder een animatiefilm? Voor hen die dat ook voelen: Coco nu op Netflix te vinden.

coco_2017The Book of Life deed het al een paar jaar geleden: Dia de Muertos gebruiken. Deze keer komt Miguel in het land der doden terecht omdat hij zijn familie probeert te ontsnappen (zij haten muziek, hij wilt alleen maar muziek maken), en ontdekt daar dingen over zichzelf en zijn familie. Zoals dat gaat.

Het ziet er allemaal weer heel mooi uit (zeker aan de dode kant), en enkele keren lijkt het zelfs meer dan het standaard plastic randje dat elke grote animatiestudio zo graag schijnt te gebruiken. Waarom heb ik alleen weer het gevoel dat Disney waar voor je geld wilt leveren, en de film weer net iets te lang is? Op deze manier wordt het tempo uit het verhaal gehaald, waardoor het meer een gevalletje ‘Oh wat mooi’ wordt in plaats van ‘Oh wat emotioneel/spannend/gaaf’.

Aan de andere kant; ruimte voor een plaspauze – zeker als je het met jongere kinderen en/of veel drankjes kijkt – is nooit weg.

Coco, Disney 2017

 

Bad Times at The El Royale

141 min.

Wat is het toch met films die niet weten wanneer ze moeten stoppen? Bad Times at The El Royale is heel lang vermakelijk (op een vervreemdende en absurde manier, verwacht geen haha-comedy), maar dan blijven scènes naar het einde toe ineens maar duren en duren. Zet die schaar er toch eens in.

Bad Times at the El RoyaleEen hotel in de jaren zestig met wat vreemde trekjes en nog vreemdere gasten. Klinkt als horror en is het ook een klein beetje, maar doordat elke gast zijn/haar moment krijgt, is het te fragmentarisch om echt spanning op te bouwen. En wanneer de slechterik er is, duurt het dus allemaal net iets te lang (zie vorige alinea).

Had de film iets meer verschoven naar de achtergrond van het hotel dan naar de kartonnen slechterik die te weinig verbinding heeft met de andere gasten. Gaat dit over de onschuldigen die hoe dan ook gewond zullen raken? Hoe ziek de wereld is? Of was er helemaal geen les, en alleen de six pack van Chris Hemsworth?

Bad Times at The El Royale, Twentieth Century Fox 2018

A Place for Us

As Amar watched the hall fill with guests arriving for his sister’s wedding, he promised himself he would stay.

Finally, a story that grabbed me again. One of those that makes you ache for the characters involved, making you wish that you could reach out to them and shake some sense into them.

At first, I got a bit frustrated by the lack of chronology; a story line is never finished before a memory (from another character) intervenes. It took me until much later that this is how humans work: our bodies might follow a chronology, our minds are always connecting things to thoughts past and future dreams. You learn so much about this family because of all the things they remember, worry about and wish for. But gosh darn it, why don’t they just TALK to each other?

Maybe it’s because it’s a Muslim family that uses their traditions as a wall, a shield and a safety net. Maybe it’s because they’re immigrants in the USA, some of them growing up during and after 9/11. Maybe it’s culture and surroundings and character and fears.

But gosh darn it, do you root for them. Do you wish for more pages to set things right, because surely a happy ending is in order here. Until then, you’re stuck with a lump in your throat.

A Place for Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Penguin Random House 2018

Exit West

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.

This is an author of which I like his stories, and usually his detached way of writing, yet find it hard to put into words what I precisely like about both things mentioned.

This time he manages to make the refugee story (people fleeing versus people accepting and or fighting their addition to their familiar surroundings) slightly magical and/yet apocalyptic. Because the main characters are refugees, but they manage to leave their country through a door, a black hole, that can appear behind any door. This means that people from all around the world appear all around the world without the lethal trips and troubles.

But after that, there’s still acceptance to fight for. The book is pretty evenly divided between before, during and after the migratory moves and changes. This way you don’t have to think about the ever after, Hamid provides.

In the end, it’s kind of a hopeful story with plenty of realism to make you feel better about the subject.

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, Hamish Hamilton 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale

It was late winter in Northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.

Just like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms an enthralling, easily accessible fantasy novel, with plenty of room for a cool (literally, in this case) female protagonist. Yay!

With my discovery of the CloudLibrary app (I’m not paid for this), I found a new way to more books. These are Express, so you can only borrow them for a week, meaning I just have to read faster. Alas.

As mentioned before, The Bear and the Nightingale is such an easy read, with only 300+ pages as well, that that time limit wasn’t an issue. It’s a (Russian) fairy tale about fairy tale elements being part of daily life. The young protagonist is too wild and strange for her family, and supports the ‘old’ gods and creatures besides Christianity. When the super religious join her house, things start rolling (into chaos).

I’m fond of reading stories set in Russia, and even though this is a romanticised version of history, it still gives an interesting look at early Moscow and its surroundings. But mostly it’s just a tasty morsel of a fairy tale that – even though it already got a sequel – can definitely stand on its own.

The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden, Penguin Random Publishing 2017