Gutsy Jewish-Kurdish romance goes after more than laughs

By Jeff Shannon * - November 3rd 2007

"David & Layla" wants so desperately to be the next "My Big Fat
Greek Wedding" that it nearly derails itself as a rom-com with
a refreshing ethnic spin. Fortunately the train never jumps the
tracks, and this eager-to-please comedy joins Seattle's own
"Outsourced" as a worthwhile diversion with plenty to say
about resolving conflict on an intimate scale.

Inspired by the real-life marriage between a Kurdish Muslim
refugee and a Jewish New Yorker, the movie hits all the
requisite plot points, some hopelessly contrived (like a first
kiss disguised as the need for CPR) while others earn big, fat,
non-Greek belly laughs.

David (David Moscow) is an agnostic Jew who hosts a
Brooklyn public-access TV show called "Sex and Happiness," for which he conducts highly
personal man-in-the-street interviews. He's got a Jewish fiancée (Callie Thorne) but is
truly smitten with Layla (Shiva Rose), a smart, sexy Kurdish refugee for whom marriage is
the best defense against imminent deportation.

You can pretty much guess the rest. But while writer-director Jay Jonroy (an Iraqi Kurdish
exile with a tragic family history under Saddam Hussein's tyranny) fumbles with
occasionally forced humor — including a terribly written infidelity scene that's played for
slapstick and left unexplained — he's remarkably adept at exploring complex divisions
between well-meaning but prejudiced families united by love.

It takes guts to mention U.S. abandonment of exiled Kurds (as when Layla tells David "we
got saved from Saddam by the same people who supported him"), and this may explain
why "David & Layla" is being self-distributed in a movie business that avoids controversy
like the plague when it's not exploiting it for profit. But anyone can grasp the issues
explored in Jonroy's comedy, and occasional missteps are easily forgiven when
something new (along with a feast of great-looking food) is being brought to the table.


"David & Layla," with David Moscow, Shiva Rose, Callie Thorne, Peter Van Wagner, Polly
Adams, Ed Chemaly, Anna George.

Written and directed by Jay Jonroy. 108 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, some
language and brief drug material. Uptown.

* The Seattle Times - By Jeff Shannon 05/10/2007