MATERIAL is a comedic drama set within the Indian community of South Africa. A comedy that translates from Muslim to Western culture is a rare find, but MATERIAL is exactly that: a truly funny film. Director Craig Freimond expertly balances light-hearted humour with the seriousness in portraying Islamic family life. This sincere story, full of the ups and downs of the everyday experience, which could be set anywhere in the world.
Riaad Moosa plays Cassim, an aspiring stand-up comedian by night, and by day a compliant right-hand man to his overbearing father, with whom he runs a textile shop. Moosa is an Indian-born South-African comedian, which informs his understanding of the nuances of the character of Cassim – resulting in a superbly delivered, honest performance. Cassim’s softly-softly approach to carving out a untraditional path for himself as he navigates the barriers and constraints of his conventional upbringing gets the audience on side, willing him to win.
… he muddles “poking” with “stabbing” on Facebook, and refers to his son’s desired trade as “standing comedy …
The supporting cast of family members and friends also display classic comic timing. The banter between Cassim and best-friend-turned-agent is particularly good, especially when set inside the latter’s unreliable bright yellow VW Beetle – the perfect car for a couple of clowns. A love sub-plot, featuring Cassim trying to woo a childhood friend who he remembers as a “fat beetle” in her younger years but is now a beautiful woman, adds to the heart-warming thread that runs through the film even in its darker moments. The financial worries caused by the family business, combined with a father’s heartache from a son not eager to fulfil his intended legacy, provide a dramatic undertone.
This is a likeable family for whom one comes to wish the best. Even Cassim’s father, with all his tyrannical bullying ways, is a source of humour. So out of touch with modern society that he muddles “poking” with “stabbing” on Facebook, and refers to his son’s desired trade as “standing comedy,” he is an amusing character, but the kind that one feels bad laughing at. After one of his stand-up routines containing ill-judged allusions to his family which are overheard by his father, Cassim quickly learns that his comic material must be respectful of the part played by his father’s material-making business, in affording such a comfortable upbringing for the family.
MATERIAL screens as part of the Africa In Motion festival in Edinburgh on October 29th, at the Filmhouse. Buy tickets here.