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Ae Fond Kiss (2004)

Courtesy of Sixteen Films

Main image of Ae Fond Kiss (2004)
35mm, 104 minutes, colour
DirectorKen Loach
Production CompanySixteen Films
ProducerRebecca O'Brien
ScreenplayPaul Laverty
PhotographyBarry Ackroyd
EditorJonathan Morris
MusicGeorge Fenton

Cast: Atta Yaqub (Casim Khan); Eva Birthistle (Roisin Hanlon); Shamshad Akhtar (Sadia Khan); Ghizala Avan (Rukhsana Khan); Shabana Bakhsh (Tahara Khan)

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Casim, a young DJ, is due to be married in a match arranged by his Pakistani Muslim parents. When Casim falls in love with Roisin, an Irish-born teacher at his sister's Glasgow Catholic school, both find themselves in conflict with their communities.

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Along with My Name is Joe (1998) and Sweet Sixteen (2002), Ae Fond Kiss is often regarded as the third part of an unofficial 'Glasgow trilogy' from the director-writer team of Ken Loach and Paul Laverty - though in fact a large slab of their first major film together, Carla's Song (1996), was set in that city and they returned there yet again in 2011 for The Angels' Share (expected 2012).

Ae Fond Kiss is a bright, summery cross-culture romance between Casim, a young Muslim of Punjabi origin born and raised in Scotland, and Roisin, a free-spirited music teacher from Northern Ireland. It continues the intimate, humanist focus of Loach's collaborations with Laverty, but is markedly lighter in tone than their other Glaswegian work. Spiked with broad humour, especially in the early stages, it is to an extent comparable to such British-Asian themed comedies as East is East (d. Damien O'Donnell, 1999) or Bend It Like Beckham (d. Gurinder Chadha, 2002). Most unusually for Loach, it also features several lyrical and surprisingly candid sex scenes.

Nonetheless, and much more typically of these filmmakers, the story's foundation is deadly serious. Laverty has said that it was prompted by the demonisation of Muslims which he observed in the wake of 9/11 - though his script is less overtly polemic than this might suggest.

Ae Fond Kiss touches on the racism encountered by Casim's family, but swiftly moves on to explore the wide diversity of viewpoints among its members, from the arch-traditional patriarch (who, Loach acknowledges, bears similarities to his own father) to Casim's elder sister, who embraces her Asian heritage, and his younger one, who dreams, against her parents' wishes, of becoming a journalist.

The picture is further muddied by the fact that Roisin is an orphan, and Ae Fond Kiss contrasts the complications of having a family with the loneliness of not having one. It also dwells, a little insistently, on the different but equally intense religious pressures emanating from Roisin's Catholic school.

The title is a quote from the Scottish writer Robert Burns, another of whose poems provides the pretext for one of Laverty's barbs against bigotry. And the bittersweet theme of Burns' Ae Fond Kiss - addressed to a lost lover - suggests a sting in the tail of the film's tentative final reconciliation and the enormous obstacles that still lie in wait for this relationship.

Sheila Johnston

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Video Clips
1. Secrets and lies (4:42)
2. Faith of our fathers (4:38)
3. Family values (2:41)
Production stills
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Carla's Song (1996)
East is East (1999)
Ladybird Ladybird (1994)
My Name Is Joe (1998)
Sweet Sixteen (2002)
Ackroyd, Barry (1954-)
Fenton, George (1950-)
Laverty, Paul (1957-)
Loach, Ken (1936-)
Morris, Jonathan (1949-)
O'Brien, Rebecca (1957-)
Smith, Roger
Ken Loach: Feature Films