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At the San Diego Asian Film Festival: Shades of Ray


Director: Jaffar Mahmood
Screenplay: Jaffar Mahmood
Release Date: None, stuff as of October 26, generic 2009
Actors: Zachary Levi, Brian George, Kathy Baker, Fran Kranz, Sarah Shahi, Bonnie Somerville

Directed by Jaffar Mahmood, Shades of Ray is a personal take on his own life in the fictional form of Ray Rehman. Born to a Pakistani father (played by the extremely talented Brian George) and a Caucasian mother (Kathy Baker, Picket Fences), Ray struggles to find his identity, cope with his father’s expectations all the while trying to figure out his love life.

Played by Zachary Levi, in his first starring role in a film (now famous for his role as Chuck in NBC’s “Chuck“), Ray is first introduced as a young kid, getting a conversation from his dad on dating and marriage, with the strong warning of marrying a white woman … even though Ray’s dad has married a white woman himself.

Fast forward 18 years, and we find Ray proposing to his white girlfriend Noel (Bonnie Somerville), who, before being able to say yes, has told Ray that she has to first try and convince her parents on the idea. Leaving him alone to ponder his thoughts and worries, Noel goes off on a vacation with her parents. Ray later finds his dad waiting on his doorstep, having just been booted out of their home by his mom. Interesting situations ensue as Ray’s dad pushes a date onto Ray which forces him to figure out who he really is and what he wants.

Despite the obvious love story, the heart of the story is about the relationship of a son and his father. Taken from Mahmood’s own experiences, the film is extremely well written, the pacing is great, and it never gets boring. There is sure to be something every person can relate to while watching the film – be it living up to the expectations of a parent, figuring out who you are, figuring out where your heart is, but doing it all while laughing. This is how comedies are supposed to be written. “Shades of Ray” should be awarded for its success in making a thought provoking and meaningful film intelligent yet funny.

People will recognize most of the actors from this film, as I did, in this endearing and heartwarming comedy about identity and finding who you are. Zachary Levi has excellent chemistry with all of the actors in the film, which is another reason this movie was such a success. The role of Ray Rehman was supposed to be played straight, whereas Fran Kranz (who plays Sal, his best friend in the movie, of which most would recognize as Dollhouse‘s Topher) and George were the actors to bring the comedy to the table. However, Zachary Levi, being as talented as he was, was able to make scenes serious, quirky, and funny with so many little nuances that really made the film. I cannot imagine a better Ray than him. In the scenes with Sarah Shahi, who played Sana, the date that was pushed onto him by Ray’s father, the chemistry between Zach and Sarah seemed to radiate off the screen. People will recognize her from the wonderful-but-unfortunately-cancelled NBC series “Life“.

I was lucky enough to listen in on the Q&A session that followed the screening of the movie, and learned a few interesting facts about the film. It was filmed in 19 days in 2006, with a very small budget, all through private investors. Unfortunately, it has been very difficult to find a distributor, and as of right now, it is only available through Netflix, Amazon and Itunes. At the time, no one wanted to distribute the film because they thought it would fail — “Who wants to go see a movie about Pakistanis?”, in the words of Mahmood. I don’t like how big companies think – if there’s a good story, there’s good acting, I want to see it.

It’s not very often that one gets an opportunity to congratulate a director/writer for an excellent job on their film, so it must have been as nice for them to hear the applause and laughter for their film as they were in the theatre as it was to shake their hands in person.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see this gem of a film, and I hope that it is able to find a wide release for it soon. It deserves to be seen and enjoyed by the majority of the population. If this gets released in theatre, I strongly suggest you watch it. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Highly Recommended! 4 Golf Balls / 5 Golf Balls

Other Links:
IMDB
Watch a Clip on Youtube!
Buy the DVD off of Amazon
Official Web Site

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