Straight to VOD: Material film review (iTunes)
James R | On 02, May 2014
Director: Craig Freimond
Cast: Riaad Moosa, Carishma Basday
Watch Material online in the UK: iTunes
Lots of stand-up comedians seem to make movies these days. What’s up with that?
Full of observations about life, comedians love to take the comedy spotlight away from the stage, often in a semi-autobiographical meta-statement about meaning, maturity and their relationship with stand-up comedy. Material, though, has a completely different set from the rest: firstly, it’s about a comedian in South Africa. Secondly, he’s a Muslim.
That’s enough to make this stand-up stand out – not least in his own home. The son of a fabric shop owner, Cassim’s (Riaad Moosa) dad expects him to be cut from the same cloth, taking over the business and marrying someone of whom he approves. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include Zulfa (Carishma Basday), a childhood friend who has grown up into a beautiful young woman.
They meet at a wedding, where he inadvertantly insults her in an attempt to make her laugh. It fails miserably. Fortunately, his gigs at a local bar are far more successful; Moosa’s delivery (he’s a stand-up comedian in real life) dispatches gags about Muslims and terrorism with a genuinely funny charm. What impresses, though, is that each feels natural. Writer-director Craig Freimond was approached to build a film around Moosa and it shows: the young star is likeable both in romance and in mid-rant about his relatives.
The family are, inevitably, the main antagonist of the feature, both on and off-screen. Vincent Ebrahim (from The Kumars at No. 42) is typically browbeaten as Cassim’s father, arguing repeatedly about his son’s choice of career. His mum, meanwhile, is predictably more sympathetic – as is his token rebellious grandma. But while the conflicts and resolutions are as by-the-numbers as it gets, convention is blown out of the water by the unusual subject matter. The location (the Muslim Indian enclave of Fordsburg) feels real and fresh, despite the overly-familiar themes, while the cast, particularly Joey Rasdien as Cassim’s The Godfather-obsessed best friend Yusuf, fill it with engaging characters. The result is a stand-up comedy movie that appears routine, but is often anything but. Charming stuff.