Written and Directed by
Running Time: 1:30
Night of Henna was a film that had a good idea, but failed miserably in its execution.
Hava was sent to Pakistan by her San Francisco-living parents nine years ago. One of her cousins had run off with a white boy so her parents wanted her to be raised as a nice Pakistani girl. Hava returns and the world seems so open and new to her. She wants to get a job, go to college, and have a life. But her father has other ideas. Nine years ago he promised that Hava would marry his sister-in-law's son (Hava's cousin) and he's sticking to it, whether Hava wants to go along with it or not. Hava manages to meet a white guy of her own and falls for him, but when she finds out she's been arranged, she goes along with it so she doesn't shame her parents. Turns out the guy she's been arranged to also has a white significant other. Go figure.
I always give credit to independent filmmakers because it takes a lot of work to get a film made. I try and find the good in these small films if I can. But with Night of Henna I'm not sure I can find much about it I liked. First and foremost, the script was cheesy and the dialogue followed suit. The main idea behind the film; learning to accept people for who they are instead of blindly following cultural ideals; was a good one. But the movie waited until the last few seconds to show any sort of acceptance. One of the biggest laughs I got was from a moment that should have been moving. One of the characters in the movie, Hava's aunt, disowned her daughter for dating a white guy. There's a scene in the movie where she is crying over her long lost daughter's head shot, not even knowing whether she was alive or dead. This woman hated the idea of her daughter with a white guy she cut her out of her life completely. Flash forward a couple of months and her son is revealed to have been dating a white woman. And in the span of literally a few seconds, the woman kisses the white girl on the head, accepting her into the family. I mean, seriously? Where on Earth did that transformation come from? And that was the biggest problem in the film. All these characters were supposed to change throughout the film, but everyone transformed in the last few seconds. The other 90+ minutes was business as usual.
There were times when the dialogue made some important points, but they were overshadowed by something else. A friend of mine pointed out to me the scene where the son was yelling at his father about the Muslim mullahs and how two-faced they are, preaching against sex but having porno mags in their rooms. But the argument came from out of nowhere. Suddenly they were yelling at each other. And while they were yelling, his father was hitting him with a shoe. There was a good chance to make a really important point, and yet the set-up and pay-off were muted because there was no set-up and the conversation was had while people were yelling and hitting each other.
There were a lot of other things that by themselves probably wouldn't be so bad, but piled on top of each other, just made the movie that much poorer. First off, what in the world was the point of having that whorish landlady? There was absolutely no reason for that story line except to show some average looking white lady in her underwear. And what about the two sex scenes? The first one, with the guy and his white girlfriend, at least was a nice juxtaposition with the guy's mother calling him, but they could have been making out on the couch instead. The second sex scene with the whore landlady served no purpose whatsoever. And to be honest, it kind of pissed me off. Why show that? Just to be shocking? It's stupid. There's no other word for it. It was completely unnecessary and stupid. I'm angry just thinking about it. Why turn off a majority of your audience like that? Who is the director marketing this movie to? Teenagers? I don't think teenagers like to see middle-aged women having sex. And a Pakistani audience is going to hate seeing something like that. In fact, he can't even show the movie in Pakistan with that scene so it'll have to be cut out anyway. And how did Hava's father not have any clue his daughter was a) working and b) going to college? And how did she get into college in the middle of a semester anyway?
I could go on, but I won't. Again, I applaud the writer/director for sticking to his guns and getting his film made. But the film that was made wasn't good at all. The actors, some of whom I've seen in other films and are in fact fine actors, were saddled with atrocious writing. I'm not sure even if you got A-list actors, they could have pulled off this script.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I would not recommend Night of Henna. The message is a good one, but the realization of that message got lost early on.
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