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Review: Material

November 20, 2012

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia

From the outset of the film, Material shows its attempt to tell a story of the struggle between tradition and the modern world. Cassim (played by Riaad Moosa), the only son of a fabric shop owner, must balance between his family and his destiny of being the next in line to head the family business, and his passion for stand up comedy. Coming from a traditional Muslin background, Cassim is aware that his dream is unlikely to materialise so, like Spider-Man, his comedy gear only comes out after dark and his secret hobby remains hidden. Inevitably, in the world of film, a secret cannot stay so for long. What follows is an obvious, unavoidable conflict between father and son.

Cassim’s first words in the film are a joke he tells about shaving someone’s eyebrows off and pencilling them back on; childish and tame, like the majority of the rest of the comedy in the film. However, at times these light-hearted one-liners do encourage a smile and even a slight giggle, contemporary references to social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook highlight the collision of the traditional and the modern. Ebrahim’s misunderstanding of ‘poking’ on Facebook as ‘stabbing’ acts both as comedy and perhaps as a way of underlining the merciless growth of technology and modern values, which ultimately trump those of tradition and conventionality.

Key themes in the film are that of responsibility and duty, two things Cassim can’t quite get to grips with. The bulky bunch of keys his father Ebrahim has for the shop come to act as a motif symbolising this notion of responsibility. The passing on of the keys to Cassim early on in the film represents the passing on of duty. Yet as the narrative unfolds, these keys are handed back and forth between father and son until finally they rest solidly in the hands of Ebrahim. The father’s charge of the keys can be seen symbolically as the unlocking of the prison of tradition which Cassim has so desperately been seeking escape from.

The final scenes of the film show reconciliation, as the long drawn out feud between Ebrahim and his brother is resolved, and reunion – the family coming together, and Cassim’s love interest, Zulfa, who finally seems interested. This is a heart warming, feel good film, which attempts to grapple with important social ideas, however I think it’s best described as a story about forgiveness and the importance of family.

Lara Businaro.

Material is released in UK cinemas next year.