The Wedding Party

110 min.

The world is a global village: how else would I have discovered a Nigerian movie (and had been able to watch it through Netflix, thanks Netflix)?

The-Wedding-Party-posterThe glorious years of endless amounts of fun romantic comedies seem to have come and gone, so I take everything recommended. It’s not essential, it adds some fun variety between everything Marvel churns out versus Oscar material. The Wedding Party was recommended with ‘Not as dramatic and all over the place and most Nigerian movies. And cute.’  So yes, sure, why not.
If this wasn’t ‘not as’, I’m curious about the usual level of hysteria and dramatics. Because in this movie there’s plenty of yelling, fake fainting, (muttered) insults and musical introductions. As in – families are introduced with dancing. This might be a regular Nigerian wedding thing, but it definitely changes up the well known wedding mile. Anyway, the drama has a valid reason (of course): the husband’s family doesn’t think his future wife is good enough for him, the wife’s family handles the insult with as much grace as a hippo in a mini pool.
It’s fun though. It’s loud and weird and kind of all over the place, but it’s clear what everyone’s place is and how this story is going to end. In case you need a romantic comedy, here you go.
The Wedding Party, FilmOne 2016

Miss India America

95 min.

Sometimes the best love stories are the ones involving friendship and self esteem. Although you could just call this a cute coming-of-age story as well and don’t worry about in your face Life Lessons and soppy scenes.
miss india americaMain character Lily always wins, no matter what the battle is. She has her entire life planned out, but of course life – being what it is – doesn’t go with that. Her boyfriend breaks off with her, because of a pageant miss! One of those dumb, shallow creatures (it takes her some time to realise her misogynistic ideas)!
Of course this means that Lily is going to have to win a pageant to win her boyfriend back. Even though she knows it’s a superficial mess, pulls her best friend away from what she wants (to participate), and just doesn’t know yet that you can’t ‘win’ people.
Boyfriend is just the katalysator for things here anyway, and nary a man is found after the first few scenes. They’re all weaker than Lily and her friends and competition, whom are learning about their culture, their place in it and that there are lines you don’t cross to win.
That’s how we get Lily recognising that you can’t keep an iron clad grip on everything-/one, and that life is nicer with people around than medals.

Miss India America, Simhan and Kapoor 2015

The Collaborator

Captain Kadian takes a large swig from his glass tumbler, closes his eyes for a moment, smacks his lips and says, ‘The job’s not that hard, you see, you just go down once a week or fifteen days, and the money, the money is not bad at all.’

I really wanted to like this. Looking back a few days later, I appreciate the story and the story telling, but while reading it, it couldn’t hold my focus.

The story is about the nineties war in Kashmir, and the young man left behind to take care of the remains. Literally. Where others have left to fight (for India/against India), the headman’s son has the job of taking identity cards from dead bodies. He feels left behind, he feels like a failure, he lives in less than a ghost town.

So what was it that didn’t click with me? Maybe the endless dreariness, the weight of everything going on. It’s not like the prose is dull, uninspired or repetitive, but it does push you into the tightening corner of the main character’s despair.
Maybe I simply read it after the wrong book, maybe I just couldn’t handle the story.

The Collaborator, Mirza Waheed, Viking 2011

The Unseen World

“Hello,” it said.

It took a while, but this story comes with a punch. It’s about the family you choose and build, the place in society you can create and can be created for you. It’s about a love for education, knowledge and science, sometimes overruling familial love. It’s also about tragedies. Yes, I know this might not sound like the most appealing story.

Adding to that, the characters are all flawed in different kind of ways. The father figure chooses work and science over traditional parenting (and family) life, the neighbour falls regularly short in her attempts to add normalcy, the daughter is a stubborn yet passive creature. It takes a while to root for those that are all so awkwardly flawed.

David – the father – is losing the control over his mind, and Ada – his daughter – is only twelve. With his mind deteriorating, so does the world he built around her, the story he created for himself. Ada has to adjust to puberty, traditional life and saying goodbye to the father she knew, in different ways.

Science may just be the only that is left standing.

 

The Unseen World, Liz Moore, Windmill Books 2016

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

In a single year, my father left us twice.

This was work. I don’t know how I managed to read two similarly build up novels (the other one being Disappearing Moon Cafe), but this one was the tougher of the two. Maybe because the comparison material was so recent. Both left me wondering how I’d like something contemporary written by an Asian actor.

Anyway, time moves every way but chronologically in Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Keep your head with you, because there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of things. The most brutal one, probably Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the horrors of Tiananmen Square.

These aren’t light, bright stories. There seems to be no end to what a family can be put through, and the small, mythology-like side steps only make the difference starker. How did anyone come out alive?

It’s a novel to take in in small doses, to learn and see through another set of goggles.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien, Granta 2016

The Marriage of Opposites

I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I’d been given.

Visually stunning, to start out with a cliche compliment. A book that could very well be turned into a TV show, but is vibrant, bright and visual enough to not necessarily need the obvious image to accompany the story. The story is the image, full of them, bursting in technicolour.
The blurb talks about the life of the mother of painter Camille Pizzarro, but ‘story about stubborn woman on a small island in the 1900s’  would have done fine as well. Rachel isn’t impressed by what her parents, religious community and society tells her to be and do, and fights their ideas in many ways. Old stories, mythology and distance to the rest of the world turn her into a heroine in a magical-realistic world.
That doesn’t mean that she’s likeable full time, the woman is stubborn and arrogant and stubborn. Camille – being her carbon copy – doesn’t make things easier inside the family (home). It does make for bigger surroundings, with Paris becoming a participant of the story later into the book. And through Hoffman’s words, Paris might have never looked lovelier.
Still, this is Rachel’s book, and she deserves it.
The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman, Simon&Schuster 2015

Disappearing Moon Cafe

He remembered that by then he was worn out from fighting the wind.

Sometimes you are simply (already) invested in a novel because you struggled to get it. Or like ‘struggle’; it’s not like I had to climb trees and survive the Sahara to get to it. It was just a tough-to-acquire eBook with a picky view of in which app to work. Anyway.

This was an experience, opposed to just another novel. Maybe I’m simply not used to Asian actors and their certain style yet, maybe it was simply because the jumps through time got me bewildered a few times.

There’s over a century of stories within the family, from second(/third/fourth?) cousins to daughters-in-law, first sons and grumpy (great-)grandmothers. A Chinese family in Canada, Chinese-Canadians and the Chinese family members left behind in the other country.

It’s a family tree book with immigration, racism and sexism mixed in. The not-western point of view doesn’t alienate, because everything that happens is simply too familiar. Everyone’s got a family, some roots just grow further and wither slower.

Disappearing Moon Cafe, Sky Lee, Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. 1990