Directed by siblings Geeta and Ravi Patel, the award-winning film “Meet the Patels” combines the documentary and narrative forms to address a growing social issue in the United States. In early 2009, Geeta and Ravi began to explore and document the societal pressures of marriage in their first-generation Indian-American family. Through research in India and America, they discovered that many Americans with strong cultural and religious roots experience feelings of conflict when it comes to dating and marrying outside of their skin color, culture, religion, or ethnicity.
In the film, Ravi, who was born and raised in the United States, takes his parents’ advice and tries to find a marriage partner in the traditional Indian way through matchmaking and Indian marriage websites. Many Americans have had similar experiences when they struggled to meet their parents’ expectations by conforming to cultural traditions while at the same time wanting to embrace the American ideals of freedom and diversity. “The question is how can you at the same time passionately oppose someone and passionately love them, recognizing that they’re a part of your family,” explained Geeta in an interview with American View. She spoke about how terrifying it can be to follow your heart and do something that deviates from the traditions you grew up with when you truly care about what your parents think and want them to always be part of your life. At the same time, both Ravi and Geeta emphasized that accepting change is a necessary and positive part of life in a multicultural society.
Photo credit: Christina House, Los Angeles Times
When Geeta and Ravi came to Japan to participate in a film screening and speaker program organized by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo as part of the American Film Showcase, they discovered that the inner struggles portrayed in “Meet the Patels” also resonated with Japanese young people. In fact, this seems to be a film that almost anyone can relate to regardless of gender, age, or cultural background. “Even people who didn’t relate to the marital qualities of the film found different ways to relate to it,” said Ravi. “I think at the end of the day we all know what it’s like to fight with your family yet still love them and want to make everything work.”
Geeta and Ravi Patel, along with their quirky and warmhearted parents, seem to have struck the perfect balance between comedy and documentary to keep audiences entertained while portraying a sometimes overlooked aspect of American culture in a refreshingly honest way. “Meet the Patels” is available for viewing on video streaming services in Japan and around the world.
Watch the interview below to hear Geeta and Ravi’s thoughts on love, marriage, diversity, and more!