MEET THE PATELS (doc, 2015)


meet the patels Greetings again from the darkness. These days the topic of racism is usually only addressed in the form of hatred and closed mindedness. This documentary/comedy looks at how racism within a culture is sometimes not only acceptable, but even encouraged as a tradition … and somehow it makes some sense.

You might recognize Ravi Patel. He is an actor from Transformers and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, and here his real life search for a wife is the focus – as is the cultural contrasts between his roots in India and his single life in the United States. Ravi co-directs with his sister Geeta Patel, though Ravi is predominantly on screen while Geeta spend her time operating the camera … while simultaneously jabbing and prodding her 29 year old brother with questions on his dating approach.

The movie picks up when Ravi has recently split with his long time girlfriend, Audrey Wauchope. Despite being very close with his parents, there is one reason Ravi never informed them of the relationship: Audrey is a white girl, not an Indian. Ravi’s parents are the product of an arranged marriage, the long-standing cultural tradition that not only matches male and female Indians, but takes it a step further by only pairing up Patels with roots in the same small geographic area of India. It’s a form of selective mating that dates back many generations.

Things get interesting and the laughs pick up as Ravi agrees to let his parents work the Indian dating network so that he can test out their traditions – in hopes of finding a match as well-suited as what theirs is. This process begins with “biodata”; a type of personal resume submitted by boys and girls – a precursor to the meet-up.

It really plays like a home movie, or a video journal, as Geeta films Ravi on dates and directly after, as he provides feedback on whether it was a good match. There is also a creative use of black & white animation to fill in the interview gaps where only Ravi’s audio is available.

The family quest to find a mate for Ravi provides some interesting and entertaining insight into the culture, but the best parts of the film come courtesy of the parents. The mother and father are exceptionally intelligent and very loving and engaged in supporting the success of their kids. Whenever the film drags a bit, a scene with either parent picks us right back up. It’s their commitment to the cause that highlights the cultural customs and challenges faced by immigrants as they struggle to get in step with American society while holding onto the tradition they so respect.

watch the trailer:

 

 

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