Heartwarming production shows challenges facing young second generation immigrants

September 17 / 197

Helana Sawires as Dianne and Osamah Sali as Ali, in a still from Ali's Wedding.
Helana Sawires as Dianne and Osamah Sali as Ali, in a still from Ali's Wedding.

Screening now in cinemas across the country, Ali’s Wedding is the latest in a long line of film/TV productions filmed here on the Parkville campus over the past year, though this production is extra special as the University actually ‘plays' itself!

The film tells the hard-to-believe but actually true story of Osamah Sali (who wrote the film, and also plays himself), the son of a local Imam who failed to get the VCE results expected of him by his immigrant family and community. Through a complex series of lies, he finds himself pretending to be a medical student at the University of Melbourne and defending the reputation of his family. 

As a Rom-Com it also features a lovely story about the difficulties young immigrants face negotiating romance in two cultures, as well as the more serious conflicts of living as second generation immigrants in a new culture, and the oftentimes very high expectations immigrant parents have of their children.

Professor of Psychology Nick Haslam says it’s fairly common to see quite unusually high academic achievements in the children of immigrants, despite the fact they face many misunderstandings in their new cultures, from lack of language fluency, religious and social differences, right up through overt racism directed at them and their families from the majority culture.

“It’s not just the kids’ achievements and determination that’s unusual,” he says, “it’s the incredibly elevated expectations of parents that are unusual, and which can produce an almost single minded industriousness in their offspring.

“We’ve seen in progressive waves of immigrants to Australia – from the Mediterranean, Vietnam and China, and now from Iraq and Afghanistan and Africa –children from these families succeed in astonishing rates in the prestige occupations like medicine and law for example.

“The parents, who have usually sacrificed a lot to re-establish themselves in their new country see education as the route available to them for aspirational and financial success.”

Coupled with that Professor Haslam says is the very different ways families interact in varous cultures.

“Many of the immigrants’ cultures are often much less individualistic than Australia, with children being very tightly connected to home and family, and with parents having strong authority relations over their children. This is the combination that can lead the children to work extremely hard.”

“That story is symbolised nicely in Ali’s Wedding, with the desire and expectation of studying Medicine at Melbourne is the thematic turning point.”

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