Yesterday, Sept. 28, The Milwaukee Film Festival held a screening of the hilarious family-made dating documentary “Meet the Patels.” After breaking up with his American girlfriend, actor Ravi Patel decides to turn his love life over to his matchmaking parents who have long encouraged him to get an arranged marriage to an Indian woman. This might be awkward enough for nearly thirty-year-old Ravi, but he also agrees to have his filmmaker sister Geeta film the whole process.
“Meet the Patels” is narrated by Ravi, who clearly has experience as a comedic actor, as his delivery, timing, and reactions all significantly contribute to qualifying this film as a comedy. The banter between Ravi, Geeta, and their parents is very smart and funny in a way that makes the audience feel drawn into the family as they poke fun of each other or reminisce happy memories.
The film is as much about family as it is about dating, though the premise might suggest otherwise. “Meet the Patels” is a fascinating look at the similarities and differences between traditional Indian dating and modern American dating. It tears down walls and opens minds by clarifying the specifics of Indian dating and what the Patel parents hope for their son.
This being said, the fact that Ravi is an actor and Geeta is a filmmaker raises the question of how genuine the documentary is as a whole. This is not at all to say that the film was scripted, but when documentaries heavily involve professional actors and directors, it makes one wonder if parts are exaggerated or if the filmmakers nudged the movement of the film a certain way they planned for it to go. However, given some very raw, real scenes, it’s easy to give the Patels the benefit of the doubt.
The familial teasing often shows up between Ravi and Geeta, to the point where Ravi will ask how Geeta thought the date went and all you hear is her laughing. This unfiltered sibling reflex is just one of many things that make “Meet the Patels” such a laugh-out-loud documentary. Ravi returns fire early on when he says that Geeta, while a talented director, fails as a cinematographer and he warns (with examples) that there will be plenty of shaky, unfocused shots with or without the mic in the shot. Ravi doesn’t exaggerate in his criticism of Geeta, but the warning almost makes the poor cinematography acceptable because it adds to the homemade feel of the film alongside childhood family videos and pictures.
Based on this criticism one might think of “Meet the Patels” as either a high quality home video or low quality professional documentary, but these shaky shots are only a small portion of the film. It also comes with movie clips, great music, animation, home video footage, and more that make it a great documentary you won’t want to miss.
“Meet the Patels” had great reception at The Milwaukee Film Festival, and will move on to other festival around the world. For more information about “Meet the Patels,” please visit the film webpage.