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Los Angeles Film Festival 2014: 'Meet the Patels' review

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Meet the Patels

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The charming and at times hilarious documentary, “Meet the Patels” will soon have everyone wanting to meet this Indian family. Directed by adult siblings, Ravi and Geeta Patel, and starring Ravi, Geeta and their mother, Champa and father, Vasant, this documentary examines universal themes like the societal pressure of marriage and marrying within one’s culture. The film had its U.S. Premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival Saturday night, and is also competing for Best Documentary.

Mixing comedic animation with interviews, confessionals and follow-doc footage, “Meet the Patels” begins after the break-up of Ravi and his American girlfriend, Audrey, a relationship he never shared with his parents. Deciding to find himself, a ‘la “Eat, Pray, Love,” Ravi travels to India to do some soul searching. However his trip is more a family vacation since he’s traveling with Mom, Dad and sister.

In India, Ravi discovers that his mother was an expert matrimonial matchmaker and through advice from various family members agrees to at least try some family matchmaking. He’s nearly 30, and as his parents say, it’s time to settle down and start having a family.

In hilarious sequences (both live action and animated), Ravi’s parents fill out his “resume” for the Indian “Biodating” system, and sign him up for the “Patel Matrimonial Convention.” Ravi is willing to try these cultural mores for dating, and Geeta films his journey, his dates, and his parents’ reactions to his successes and failures.

Surprises are revealed along the way, but what makes “Meet the Patels” such a joy to watch is its relatable theme – of finding the right partner and trying to please the parents. Sure, not all of us have the pressures of dating within one’s culture, but finding the right match and having friends and family approve is certainly a common thread for most.

Equally impressive are the Patels themselves. Funny, caring, and honest in their hopes and desires, this is the type of family that is rarely represented on film. Much too often we are forced to watch families in a state of heightened dysfunction. What a breath of fresh air to find the Patels.

This is not to say the family is perfect or completely open to everything; the parents are conservative, after all. And everything the kids do, don’t always please them. But there is certainly a sense of respect on behalf of all parties as they try and understand and appreciate one another.

It’s rare to come across documentaries that are authentic and laugh-out-loud funny. “Meet the Patels” is such a gem.

“Meet the Patels” is 88 minutes and Not Rated. For further festival screenings, check out the LAFF website.

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