Monday, September 7, 2015

Meet the Patels

In this picaresque documentary, the lightly comic musings of a likeable, somewhat nerdy Indian-American actor go surprisingly deep, becoming an honest exploration of how a strong ethnic identity can be both a cradle and a trap, especially when it comes to picking a mate. The movie's co-director, co-writer, and subject, Ravi Patel is in the market for a wife after dumping his girlfriend of two years. He's very close to his parents, but he never told them about the girlfriend, certain that they would disapprove of his dating a white American. But at age 29, he's ready to settle down, so he agrees to enter the Indian marriage market.

His parents eagerly create his “biodata” sheet and start setting him up on dates with eligible women—ideally not just Indians or Indian Americans, but fellow Patels. As the film explains with its trademark mixture of simple black-and-white animation and home movie-ish video (awkward framing, a sometimes unintentionally shaky camera, frequent light flares and glare), all Patels come from one small state in India, and traditionally they marry only people from the same region, nearly all of whom are named Patel. Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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