Chosen Film: “The Infidel”

A comedy about a Muslim who discovers he’s actually a Jew?

There’s a “Three’s Company” plot prepped for slapstick. To meet the birth father he never knew, Mahmud Nasir (comedian Omid Djalili) must get in touch with his inner Yid while hiding this new identity from his family. Though director Josh Appignanesi and writer David Baddiel clean out the bank of Islamic and Jewish stereotypes, the story surprisingly reveals both sides of the Semitic coin.

Mahmud’s Jewish spirit guide appears in the form of the divorced and surly Lenny Goldberg (The resident jew of “The West Wing,” Richard Schiff, who really shines while kvetching). Goldberg’s religious and cultural philosophy is pretty simple: If Judaism is all bullshit, at least it’s his bullshit. With a massive star around his neck and a ton of Holocaust books on his shelves, Goldberg claims to typify the Classic American Self-Hating Jew. As he plays Hatikvah on a loop, he calls it a song that makes you want to “put all your possessions in a wooden cart and pull them sadly and slowly away from your burning village.”

Of course, Goldberg’s lessons (including the proper pronunciation of “Oy”) aren’t enough to grant Mahmud access to his dying birth dad, but that’s the least of his worries. His daughter is running around the house with a plastic sword declaring Jihad while his son prepares to marry the stepdaughter of a fundamentalist cleric. To impress his soon-to-be in-laws, Mahmud has to bone up on the Koran between Jew lessons. And for the cleric, being Muslim goes hand in hand with hating Israel. In the best executed joke, Mahmud heads straight from Anti-Israel rally to a Bar Mitzvah.

Comedy should be confrontational, and “The Infidel” crosses the line more than a few times. Still, the light style somehow keeps even touchy political and religious conflicts breezy. Like “Bend it Like Beckham,” the moral is “Be yourself, hey, but blend just a tad.” That wrap-up might be a little too simple for some, but without it the film would devolve into the same old arguments that both peoples have been warring over for millennia. This film is full of laughs for Jew, Muslim and even gentile (but mostly for the Jews and Muslims).


To find out more about this film, visit the official website or click here for screenings in New York with the Tribeca Film Festival.

What do you think?

About The Author

Jonathan Poritsky

Jonathan Poritsky lives in Austin and misses a good bagel. You can read more of his work at the candler blog.

2 Responses

  1. Candlercast #16: A Conversation with The Infidel Team - the candler blog

    […] The British film The Infidel just reached American shores this week at the Tribeca Film Festival here in New York City. The irreverent comedy is about a Muslim who learns he is adopted and his parents are in fact Jewish. What ensues is a delightful comedy of errors that delves into the murkier depths of religious and ethnic stereotypes. You can read my full review over at Heeb Magazine. […]


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