by Paula Farmer
The confrontations and compromises between parents and children take on a humorous but thoughtful spin in the British import film, East Is East.
As if adolescence isn’t difficult enough, the seven kids of George Khan endure the added pressure of trying to placate their father’s pride and demands of maintaining Pakistani traditions, while they’re understandably attracted to their ‘70s London surroundings.
The obvious cultural clashes are initially light and hilarious, while the audience gets introduced to the younger characters (and their quirky nuances) as they avoid their father’s disapproving eye. Tomboy Meenah prefers mocking traditional dances over wearing a sari; Saleem, a closet hippie, pretends to be studying engineering when in fact he’s in art class sculpting sexual organs; and Nazir flees the altar, home and the entrapment of an arranged marriage.
The other siblings sleep during religion class, cook pork while dad is out of the house, and sneak out at night to drink and dance at the local disco. The mother, who is British, has to contend with George’s insistence at maintaining Pakistani ways as she covers for the kids and gets threatened with the arrival of George’s first wife left behind in Pakistan.
Just as Eastern traditional culture meets with the contemporary West, the humor of the film eventually combines with serious issues, as George arranges marriages for two more of his sons and interprets the family’s understandable rebellion as disrespect that must be beaten into submission.
The climax of the story pits mother against father, as hard choices have to be made for the family’s greater good. With a creative script and good performances from its ensemble cast, East Is East lovingly shares the story of what happens when different cultures collide within one family.
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