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Miles From Nowhere (Photo: Supplied)
Miles From Nowhere (Photo: Supplied)

Pop CultureFebruary 27, 2024

Review: Miles From Nowhere is a chaotic, hilarious and loveable New Zealand comedy

Miles From Nowhere (Photo: Supplied)
Miles From Nowhere (Photo: Supplied)

Tara Ward discovers Neon’s latest local series is full of humour and heart.

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In the second episode of Miles From Nowhere, a young New Zealand Muslim man named Ahmad (Sami Afuni) appears on a morning news show. A video of him using the word “jihad” in a livestream has gone viral, and Ahmad is fronting to explain how his enthusiastic speech about a sausage sizzle fundraiser has been misconstrued as insurrection. The conversation, however, goes quickly off track. “Welcome to our country,” the host tells him, speaking slowly and offering him a plate of pork sausage rolls. “I was born in Avondale,” Ahmad replies.

It’s one of the many funny and perceptive moments from Miles From Nowhere, the new six-part comedy-drama created and written by award-winning poet, journalist and writer Mohamed Hassan and directed by Ghazaleh Golbakhsh. The series is inspired by Hassan’s life as a Muslim man in New Zealand, and his determination to see his community represented in ways that accurately reflected his own experiences.

“When I met director, producer and proud Wellington boy Ahmed Osman on a shoot in London, we talked for hours about our favourite comedies – Atlanta, Ramy, Kim’s Convenience – and wondered when we’d get to see a Kiwi comedy about the community we loved,” Hassan wrote in this lovely piece about what inspired him to make the series. “We’d both waited a lifetime to see someone tell that story, and if no one was going to tell it, maybe we should.”

Said (Arlo Green) in Miles From Nowhere (Photo: Supplied)

Miles From Nowhere pulls you into that story from the very first scene. When we first meet the show’s protagonist Said (Arlo Green), he’s a bit lost. He sleeps all day, still lives with his Mum, and he’s been dumped by his fiancee Marwa (Roxie Mohebbi) days before their wedding. With no job and little hope, Said spends his days dreaming of becoming a singer-songwriter.

But when Ahmad’s speech goes viral, Said’s family is visited by two Security Intelligence Services officers. Said is forced to explain that his Facebook posts about “blowing things up” were merely song lyrics, exposing his secret musical aspirations. As the series develops, Said forms an unlikely but dangerous friendship with one of the officers, which will see him risk his whole community to fulfil his dreams.

While Said tries to sort his life out, Miles From Nowhere uses humour to challenge many commonly held Western stereotypes about Islam, immigration and the Muslim community. And while the story is centred in one community, the themes of the show are universal. Said’s issues are ones that every viewer will relate to, no matter their religion or nationality: relationship troubles, family tensions, the struggle to find purpose in your life. These are the human concerns that have occupied dramas and comedies around the world since TV first began, and highlights all the things we have in common.

Every viewer will relate to the strained relationship between Said and Narwa, and we all have friends like Darwish (Bala Murali Shingade) who offer support and compassion but aren’t afraid to call their mate a dickhead when they need to. Said may be the focus of the show, but a series of loveable, familiar characters whirl around him, like taxi driver Faizan (Mustaq Missouri) and Said’s cajoling mum Shadia (Sherwin Darwish). These supporting characters are never so over the top that they become ridiculous, but provide welcome comic relief to Said’s personal struggles.

Said (Arlo Green) and Marwa (Roxie Mohebbi) in a scene from Miles From Nowhere (Photo: Supplied)

The writing is full of dry, quiet humour that feels distinctly us. There’s the moment the angry intelligence officers ask if Said loves New Zealand and he replies understatedly, “I mean, it’s alright”. When Ahmad and Darwish are interviewed by a Pākeha journalist, Darwish scolds Ahmad for bringing up Captain Cook: “you know how uncomfortable it makes them”. These sharp one-liners anchor the show in a New Zealand we all know, poking fun without ever losing the show’s strong sense of community and heart.

It’s refreshing to see a groundbreaking show like Miles From Nowhere on our screens. Like recent comedies like Homebound 3.0 and Raised by Refugees, it gives representation to a New Zealand community rarely seen on mainstream television, and does it on their own terms. Now, more than ever, we need to see diverse and unique stories that celebrate our differences, acknowledge our similarities and challenge our stereotypes about who we are as a nation – all while having a good laugh.

Miles From Nowhere streams on Neon and screens on Sky Open on Wednesdays at 8.35pm.

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