Ray Rehman is an average 20-something American guy trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood. He attends audition after audition, shares a house with a friend from high school and is in search of true love. There’s a catch, however. Ray is half-Pakistani, and so his typical American life is periodically interrupted by reminders that he’s not quite white, nor is he totally brown.
Ray’s inner cultural tug-of-war intensifies when his Pakistani father shows up on his doorstep one day, after being kicked out by Ray’s white-American mother. Ray’s father proceeds to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong and is anything but subtle when it comes to the direction he believes his son’s life should take – especially on the topic of marriage.
“Shades of Ray, directed by Jaffar Mahmoud, features Zachary Levi, best known as the star of the hit American TV show “Chuck, as Ray Rehman.
The film is both a heartfelt drama and a laugh-out-loud comedy. Most of all, it’s a love story about trying to find that special someone who understands you.
The different relationship conflicts bring out the drama in the film: Ray vs. his father, Ray’s father vs. Ray’s mother, and Ray vs. the love of his life.
Conversely, the issues Ray faces as being stereotyped as ‘brown’ and ‘Muslim’ in the US are treated more comically. This was Mahmoud’s aim from the beginning.
“My hope is that the film can start to get rid of those thoughts that if a film has a Pakistani or Muslim character, it’s a movie about terrorists or a movie dealing with immigration. . Why can’t there just be a character who is Pakistani or Muslim dealing with the same issues that Ben Stiller deals with in a comedy? Mamoud told Daily News Egypt.
“I was hoping that would obviously come across in a fun way and that those types of messages can get across without pointing a finger directly at it, the director continued.
The film is partially autobiographical. Mahmoud himself was born to a Pakistani father and a white-American mother. The director admits that every central character in the film is based on someone in his own life.
Although “Ray’s (as well as Mahmoud’s) cultural background is specific, the film’s audience need not be bi-racial or South-Asian to relate to the story. Rather, the themes found in “Shades of Ray transcend cultural boundaries – ideas like finding a place to fit in, finding love in the person who truly understands you, and feeling as if one has to live up to parents’ impossible ideals.
“We all have some sort of tug. We all have some sort of conflict, said Brian George, the actor who plays Javaid Rehman, Ray’s father.
“It’s about being a human being, and a human being is a complete mess of contradictions, he continued. “You want to say I’m one thing, I’m this and I’m that . At the same time you are a human being with insecurities.
“Shades of Ray will be shown next week as part of the Cairo International Film Festival’s International Digital Feature Film Competition.
Mahmoud admits that he is a slightly “nervous about his film’s international debut in Cairo. Yet, with positive audience reactions at screenings thus far, coupled with winning the Best Narrative Feature Film competition at the South Asian Film Festival in New York City, Mahmoud’s first feature-length film seems to be off to a good start.
Catch “Shades of Ray on Nov. 24, 6:30 pm, at Good News Cinema. Tel: (02) 2532 2800.