Friday, April 23, 2010

FYI: The Infidel

The Daily Beast has a niece piece about the new comedy, "The Infidel" starring British Baha'i comedian/actor Omid Djalili. Here's a taste of it:

The screenwriter of The Infidel, in which a British Muslim discovers he's actually Jewish, talks to Venetia Thompson about the "unifying response" of laughter.

David Baddiel is anxious. Not because he’s written a highly controversial comedy about a Muslim who discovers he was born a Jew, and could be facing a fatwa at any moment, but because of a certain ash cloud that is currently separating him from the U.S. premiere of The Infidel this coming Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival (the first of five screenings that sold out in three hours).

“It’s really a body swap movie,” says screenwriter David Baddiel. “People always think of Muslims and Jews as opposites, but this is a false polarization…we are actually very similar…culturally, domestically and even theologically.”

His only hope is Omid Djalili, the British-Iranian star of the film that’s currently outselling many big budget U.S. films here and has been constantly hitting the headlines since its U.K. release. “He’s en route to Israel, to pray at the Ba’hai center in order to life the cloud,” Baddiel reveals.

With friends in high places, if anyone can shift an ash cloud, Djalili can. “He’s much loved,” Baddiel says. Which is fortunate, because Djalili is also planning on trying to appease the Dubai board of censors, who have banned the film despite 62 other countries (including Iran) jumping at it.

Djalili plays Mahmud Nasir, who Baddiel describes as being the “klutzy, likeable, Everyman” British Muslim who drinks the odd beer, swears, and doesn’t pray as often as he should—a “Homer Simpson Muslim, or rather a Homer Simpson who just happens to be a Muslim.” When Mahmud’s mother dies, he discovers that he was adopted, and actually born Jewish: his real name is Solly Shimshillewitz. (The name prompts Lenny Goldberg—Mahmud’s cynical, self-hating, borderline alcoholic Jewish neighbor, played by Richard Schiff of The West Wing—to ask, “Why didn’t they just call you Jewy Jew Jew Jew and be done with it?”). (Read the whole thing here)

I wanted to make sure that readers knew about this film. It definitely sounds worth watching, and I'm looking forward to it. If you've already had a chance to see it, tell me what you thought.

While you're at it, you might want to find a way to see "Little Mosque on the Prairie" another comedic look at issues of religion and identity that is produced by Mary Darling, a Baha'i in Canada.