Muslim family life explored in ‘The Big Sick’

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When Pakistani actor Kumail Nanjiani and his American wife Emily Gordon wrote a film about the surreal circumstances that brought them together, little did they expect that their love story would be put under a political spotlight. “The Big Sick” explores Nanjiani’s cultural conflict as a Pakistani Muslim comedian in a post-9/11 America. His life is further complicated when he falls in love with Gordon, played by Zoe Kazan, and goes against his family’s wishes that he marry a Pakistani woman. The film, out in limited U.S. release on Friday (June 23), is “coming out at a time when there’s a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment, there’s a lot of Islamophobia,” Nanjiani said in an interview. “By depicting a Muslim family as like normal people, that’s its big political statement,” said Nanjiani, who is also the first Pakistani leading man in a Hollywood romantic comedy. The movie arrives after U.S. President Donald Trump’s call during his 2016 election campaign for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. Now in the White House, Trump is seeking to ban travelers from six Muslim-majority countries in a case awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Nanjiani, 39, best known for playing snarky programmer Dinesh in HBO’s comedy “Silicon Valley,” and Gordon said they did not predict the film would wade into a hot-button issue. In “The Big Sick,” Nanjiani’s family struggle with his decision to pursue comedy as they try to arrange a suitable marriage, while he secretly dates the smart, nerdy Emily. Nanjiani’s world is upended when Emily falls into a coma with an undiagnosed illness and he keeps a bedside vigil alongside her parents. “The Big Sick” arrives as Hollywood films such as “Get Out” and “Wonder Woman” are starting to break the white, male-dominated movie mold and show that audiences will pay to see films with minority leads.

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