Hot Docs 2014 | Meet the Patels

Posted by Sadiya Ansari & filed under Film, Film Festival, Hot Docs.

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Directors: Geeta V. Patel, Ravi V. Patel | USA | 2013 | English | World Premiere | 88 Minutes

HOT DOCS SCREENINGS

April 27, 2014 9:30 pm | Royal Cinema

April 29, 2014 11:00 am | Isabel Bader Theatre

May 1 9:30 pm | Isabel Bader Theatre

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Geeta V. Patel and Ravi V. Patel are a brother-sister duo who set out to make a real life rom-com about Ravi’s foray into what I like to call “arranged marriage 2.0.” Typical of the genre, the film starts with a break-up. Ravi split from his only serious girlfriend of two years, Audrey. He’s heartbroken but it’s hard to feel bad for him since it’s kind of his fault. Ravi broke up with Audrey because he was too wimpy to bring a white girl home to his parents even though he is nearly 30 years old.

Shortly after this breakup, Ravi (and Geeta behind the camera) head to India with their parents, Champa and Vasant, on their annual family trip. Ravi starts to explore what an arranged marriage would really mean back home where Patels only marry other Patels, ideally in a 30 mile radius of your village. This exploration didn’t exactly happen in a “safe space” – everyone had an opinion to offer to Ravi, which can be summed up as just get married already.

When asking his parents if they think it will work for him they answer nearly in unison: “Absolutely.”

Although clearly overwhelmed, he muses, “Maybe I am being close minded, this system has worked.”

After determining the 30 mile radius thing probably won’t work for him, Ravi reflects on what he really wants in a partner – someone who shares both his cultures while understanding the delicate balancing act it requires to have grown up playing baseball, watching Bollywood and getting interrogated every time a friend of the opposite sex calls the house. The search came in two phases, manual distribution and collection of “biodatas” and online matrimonial sites like shaadi.com. I have to hand it to him, he really committed to the process, going as far as flying across the U.S. and Canada to meet 15 different girls.

Meet the Patels

In the thick of the journey we discover Ravi has kept in touch with Audrey, filming a phone call where she asks point blank: “Have you dealt with your inability to commit?”

He seems flustered, likely the result of an internal conflict about the real reasons he broke up with Audrey. Was it about her being white? His inability to commit? His desire to make his parents happy?

This film has hallmarks of the rom-com genre even though it’s a documentary – heartbreak, searching for love and even a happy ending. What the film provides that is less common in any genre is an intimate portrait of an Indian-American family and the struggle in confronting the pressure that traditional expectations create in second generation young adults.

Both Geeta and Ravi are in show biz, Geeta is a screenwriter and filmmaker with credits on Blue Crush and Fast and Furious and Ravi is an actor and comedian who has worked on The New Normal, Scrubs and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Given this film started out with Geeta just learning how to shoot, it’s not cinematically beautiful but animation is used artfully for comic relief, reflection and to narrate pivotal parts of the story not caught on camera.

For me, this film is so Schema and an absolute must-see. It explains so clearly all those awkward things you hid from your white friends while growing up without caricaturizing the immigrant experience. Catch it at Hot Docs and you might even get to meet the pair since they are in town promoting the film during it’s world premiere.

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