The heart-warming tale follows Ali, the son of a Muslim cleric, whose insatiable desire to please his father leads him to tell a succession of well-meaning lies. These lies set off a series of catastrophic and hilarious events, including forging exam results in the hopes of becoming a medical student and accidentally agreeing to an arranged marriage.
The film came about after a conversation in 2009 on the set of the telemovie Saved, in which Osamah Sami told actress Claudia Karvan about his arranged marriage which had lasted one hour and 40 minutes. Executive producer Tony Ayres overheard the story and introduced him to writer Andrew Knight (SeaChange, The Water Diviner) to work on a screenplay based on sections of Sami’s memoir, Good Muslim Boy.
However, despite being a working actor and having lived through the events of the screenplay, Osamah Sami wasn’t handed the title character on a silver platter as one might expect. Director Jeffrey Walker agreed that Sami had the ‘acting chops‘ for the part, but in his early 30s, he was deemed a little old to play Ali. After nine audition scenes, Sami managed to convince casting directors otherwise, and he landed the role.
Starring alongside Sami is Maha Wilson, who plays Yomna, the girl who Ali has been arranged to marry, while Ali’s love interest Dianne is played by Helana Sawires, whose Egyptian background helped her to find a connection with the film’s comedic themes. Playing Ali’s father, Mehdi, is Don Hany, who accompanied Sami to the mosque ‘for 12 consecutive nights during an annual 12-night commemoration event,’ in preparation for the role.
Co-written by Andrew Knight (SeaChang and Jack Irish), the Matchbox Pictures production is led by director Jeffrey Walker, whose credits include Modern Family, Angry Boys and Jack Irish, along with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Don McAlpine (Mrs Doubtfire, Moulin Rouge, X-Men).
Recently, Ali’s Wedding won Best Original Feature Film at the 49th Annual AWGIE Awards in Sydney, and with accolades, comes media attention; however, it’s the broad Australian public that Sami hopes to enchant with this charming tale of ‘family, duty and love.’ And ultimately, it’s a hope that comedy films like this one can help to diminish negative stereotypes about Muslims.
Ali’s Wedding will be released in national cinemas in early 2017.