Monday, 26 March 2012
Set in West Yorkshire amongst the Pakistani community in the early noughties, this film gives the viewer a privileged view of what it is to be on the other side. The script is handled with deftness and sensitivity as it portrays a picture of the clash of two cultures struggling to coexist.
Yasmin is the eldest daughter of widower Khalid who is a leading member of the community and a prominent member of the local mosque. To fulfil a family obligation, Yasmin has been forced to marry Faysal and to remain married for as long it takes him to gain right to reside in the UK. The marriage is never consummated and Yasmin loathes the goat herder who prefers to cook on a bonfire in the back yard rather use the stove in the kitchen.
Khalid runs a TV and Video repair shop and with his colleague laments the behaviour of the younger generation and their unwillingness to hold to traditional muslim and Koranic values. Nasser is Yasmin's 18 year old brother who sees little future for himself beyond performing the call to prayer for the mosque and then spending the day dealing drugs and engaging in casual sex for deals.
Yasmin lives two lives. Each day she drives to the city in her new red Golf convertible to work in Community Transport. En route each day she stops in a remote spot on one of the lanes and changes from her Hijab into jeans and T-Shirt. The reverse transformation takes place on the way home each day. At work John clearly has an interest in her and whilst many in the indigenous community openly demonstrate their hostility, John always takes her for who she is - until he learns she is legally married which he sees as a betrayal of his trust.
All is well until 9/11 transforms their community as the Police and Intelligence Agencies harras the local population looking for anyone with links to radical Islam. Faysal's second cousin runs a Madrassa in Pakistan and that's enough for Faysal to be arrested and placed in indefinite detention. The way in which the community are dealt with and the increasing harassment in the wake of 9/11 coalesce with the arrival of militant Islamic preachers seeking to recruit activists.
I won't explain what happens as that would spoil what is a completely believable story that has a real and authentic feel about it. The film begs questions about neighbourliness, about problems of assimilation and distinctiveness of immigrant communities, about racism, prejudice, marginalisation and a society that disempowers the marginalised and forces them into confrontation. It raises profound questions about the flip side of the coin of globalisation - it's alright to export 'us' to 'them', but don't expect 'them' to be able to import their distinctiveness to 'us'.
A gripping drama which I fear has more truth than fiction underpinning it. We need to be sensitive in the emerging mosaic that is contemporary culture. This film might just provide a way for those who watch it, to consider their contribution to the mix. What is interesting is that Yasmin is played by Archie Panjabi who is an Indian Hindu and Khalid is played by Renu Setna who is a Pakistani Zoroastrian!
Well worth the engagement - I'll give it 7.5/10.