Picked up a couple of movies on DVD from the Library this last week. One was the New Zealand made, My Wedding and other secrets, and the other was The Kite Runner. An interesting pair. The NZ film knows exactly its limitations, and works to present a world that's very ordinary, down-to-earth and in no way more excessive than the reality - apart, perhaps, from the humour. The other movie is big budget, filmed in some amazing locations, with hundreds of extras and plenty of CGI. For all that, it remains a very human film, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Well, enjoyed may not be quite the right word; it terms of filmmaking it was enjoyable, in terms of content it was often heart-breaking and sometimes extremely grim. Kite Runner, for all its big budget, isn't a big story in the sense of being a huge adventure. The main characters are fairly ordinary, and none of the faces on the screen are particularly familiar. It's primarily about family and how relationships fare in the midst of crises. Khalid Abdalla, as the adult Amir, turns from being a young man who knows he's done an extremely cowardly act as a child, to being someone who can forgive himself because he finally acts bravely enough to overcome not only his own demons but some brutal men who see no hypocrisy in abusing children on one hand while stoning adulterous women on the other. His childhood friend and also the son of his father's servant - he turns out to be his step-brother as well - has inner strength, but no power. Well, no power in the sense of position or authority. He certainly has resilience and integrity.
I had thought the story was based on the author's life, but it's actually fiction, which gives it a more effective resolution than a 'true' story might have done. There are some very nasty moments in the movie; curiously, but perhaps typically, there's been more angst from Afghanistan about the rape of the servant boy by some bullies than about the stoning of the woman by much nastier bullies. Life under the Soviet invaders has some brutal moments (during one of these, Amir's father shows what moral integrity and guts he has) but the Taliban regime is a worse one to be under: for example, something that seems almost farcical - the beard police - is actually vicious and murderous.
My Wedding is based on the director's life. The film has its origins in a student documentary Chinese New Zealander Roseanne Liang made; this focused on her secret marriage to a white New Zealander, brought about by Liang's concerns that her family wouldn't accept the marriage. The feature film, in general, takes a much more light-hearted look at the same material, fictionalizes some of it, gives it dramatic structure, and offers two first-class roles for the two leading characters. Michelle Ang plays the movie version of Liang (who directed), and Matt Whelan plays her husband. He's gangly and very tall; she's petite, and a ball of fire. Both of these actors are so good in their roles, it's almost a disappointment to see the real life couple in one of the extras on the DVD.
The film has everything going for it: a good cast which includes two popular and very experienced Hong Kong actors, Kenneth Tsang and Pei-pei Cheng (she was Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The other actors are relatively unfamiliar but uniformly good (only Simon London as the poncy student co-producer of the documentary seemed not quite attuned to the movie's mood).
My Wedding is one of those wonderful small-scale comedies New Zealand seems at last to be producing without making its audience cringe (Secondhand Wedding was another). Highly recommended.