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East is east

So often we are caught up in our own lives and our own problems that we forget about other people. It's only when we're aware of other people's problems that we realise we have very little of our own.

Today I saw the movie "East is East" at the Ealing Film Festival, mainly to get a good laugh. I heard it was a British-Asian comedy based on a sold-out play in 1996. But I was surprised how poignantly it depicted life of a family in Salford (near Manchester, England).

Or rather, it seemed so real that I could just see myself visiting this family of seven children.

It's about George Khan, the owner of a fish and chips shop, and Pakistani immigrant who tries to instill his values upon his children. Not only does he try to instill his values, he overwhelms them with his decisions, such as arranged marriages. His oldest son Nassir runs away on the day of his wedding. George's English wife starts to question whether she should let her husband have his way.

It all came to a head when George decides to arrange his next two sons' marriages. His intentions were good - how to keep them out of trouble, how to make them responsible citizens. His friend's advice was to marry them off. But he didn't consider his children's wishes.

Indeed, I remember a conversation I had years ago on an airplane from Taipei to Bangkok. The older gentleman next to me said that he ensured his sons got married before they embarked on their careers. Marriage, he said, gave them stability and and a sense of duty. I've also been told that married men make more money than unmarried ones. But I wonder whether it's because their wives don't work and allow them to concentrate. The opposite is true for women: single women make more money than their married peers with children.

I don't know much about arranged marriages. One of my ex-colleagues, a person I considered quite rational and intelligent, allowed himself to go through an arranged marriage. I don't know how well he is doing now.

"East is East" is not just a comedy. There are moments that gave me a lump in my throat. That cosy family feeling - so many bodies to hug and the closeness of being surrounded by people you grew up with, I miss that!

8 September 2002 Sunday

Movie reviews
a review of "East is East" ends with
"East is East stays true to the contradictions and intricacies that exist in all families. Ultimately, this film succeeds because its characters are not good nor evil, just believably human."
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