The Infidel (2010 film)

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The Infidel
The Infidel.jpg
Directed by Josh Appignanesi
Produced by Arvind Ethan David
Written by David Baddiel
Starring
Music by Erran Baron Cohen
Cinematography Natasha Braier
Editing by Kim Gaster
Studio
  • Slingshot Productions
  • Met Film Production
Distributed by Revolver
Release dates
  • 9 April 2010 (2010-04-09)
Running time 105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Infidel is a 2010 British comedy film directed by Josh Appignanesi and written by David Baddiel. The film stars Omid Djalili, Richard Schiff, Yigal Naor and Matt Lucas and revolves around a British Muslim who goes through an identity crisis when he discovers he was adopted as a child and born to a Jewish family.[1]

Plot[edit]

Mahmud Nasir (Omid Djalili) is a loving husband, doting father and a "relaxed" British Muslim who frequently listens to rock music, particularly the long deceased pop star Gary Page (James Floyd), and occasionally drinks alcohol. His son, Rashid, wishes to get married to Uzma, but he and Uzma need the blessing of her devout Muslim cleric stepfather, Arshad Al-Masri (Yigal Naor), whose actions and beliefs have earned him the contempt of many British Muslims. Mahmud reluctantly agrees to put on the act of devout Muslim for the occasion. Things change when Mahmud, while clearing out his recently deceased mother's house, stumbles across an adoption certificate. Mahmud learns he was actually adopted by his Muslim parents when he was two weeks old, his birth parents are Jewish, and his real name is Solomon "Solly" Shimshillewitz. This comes as a shock to Mahmud, who is somewhat anti-Semitic, exemplified by his relationship with his American Jewish neighbour, Leonard "Lenny" Goldberg (Richard Schiff). His wife suspects his strange behaviour may be due to Mahmud being gay and speaks to the imam of their local mosque. The imam tells Mahmud that the Koran permits a man to sleep with another man.

During an argument with Lenny, Mahmud lets slip his religion and his real name, and Lenny mentions a similarity to the name, Isaac "Izzy" Shimshillewitz, a local man, who may be Mahmud's biological father. Mahmud tracks his father to a Jewish old age home. He tries to visit, but a rabbi (Matt Lucas) guarding Izzy's soul refuses him entry, saying it would be a shock for Izzy, a Jewish man, to see his son, a Muslim, and advises him to learn to act more like a Jew if he desires to see his father. Lenny agrees to teach Mahmud what he knows about being a Jew, such as dancing like Topol and learning basic Yiddish, but the frequent trips to Lenny's house arouse Mahmud's family's suspicions, especially when Mahmud's kippah is spotted during a Muslim rally. Mahmud publicly burns the kippah in desperation as a symbol of his supposed hatred for Jews. Mahmud later attends a Bar Mitzvah with Lenny and unintentionally tells a very crude joke to the audience in broken Yiddish, only to be greeted with laughter from the attendees. Mahmud and Lenny eventually attempt to see Izzy, but the rabbi still refuses to let Mahmud inside when he cannot say his Jewish Sh'ma or name the Five Books of Moses in Hebrew. On the way home, Mahmud and Lenny have a bitter argument and Mahmud storms off, vowing to tell his family the truth immediately, but when he gets home, he sees that Arshad, Uzma and their friends are already there on a visit. Arshad, impressed with Mahmud's supposed devotion to Islam after having seen him burn the kippah on a TV news broadcast, proudly gives his blessing to Rashid and Uzma's union, but the police arrive, along with the media and a crowd of angry Jews and supportive Muslims, to arrest Mahmud for burning the kippah (though Arshad publicly insinuates that the Jews have bribed the police). In desperation, he yells out in front of everyone that he is Jewish, exonerating him of the crime. A disgusted Arshad leaves with Uzma and his friends.

Mahmud's family leaves him for his dishonesty, one of his colleagues at work resigns, and he starts drinking. He becomes almost suicidal but is found and rescued by Lenny, who saw his announcement on the news. Mahmud angrily goes to the old age home and demands to see his father, but learns that his father has already died. Heartbroken, Mahmud is allowed inside Izzy's room where he finds a video of his announcement in Izzy's video machine, which Lenny had sent Izzy. Mahmud's only solace is a sticker on the video with the name "Solly" on it, indicating that even after all these years, Izzy still remembered his long-lost son.

Mahmud appears at Arshad's next rally and delivers a speech on behalf of himself, Jewish citizens and Muslims. Mahmud also tells the crowd that Arshad is actually Gary Page, whose parents were scientologists, and who staged his own death following his fall from fame after a racist remark, and then resurfaced as a devout Muslim cleric. Arshad escapes from the rally, comically dressed in his old Gary Page clothes. In the end, Rashid and Uzma are married in a Pakistani Interfaith wedding, attended by both Muslims and Jews.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

David Baddiel wrote The Infidel because he has "always been a fan of life-swap comedy (Big, Trading Places, etc)"; he "think[s] that people are terrified about race and religion, especially issues surrounding Muslims and Jews, and when people are terrified, what they really should do is laugh"; and he "love[s] Omid Djalili and his big funny face. [He's] hoping that people recognise that underneath the comedy, the message of the film is one of mutual tolerance: if not, [He's] hoping to find a new identity."[2]

BBC Films helped develop the film's script. They withdrew shortly after the "Sachsgate" scandal, in which the BBC were criticised for offensive content.[3]

Release[edit]

The film was released 9 April 2010 in the United Kingdom. Distribution rights to the film were sold to 62 different countries around the world, including many Arab and Muslim countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Oman, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The film has been shown in Iran but was not picked up by Israeli distributors.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

65% of the 23 approved Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the film a positive review.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Catrin Nye (2009-07-23). "Omid Djalili becomes an Infidel". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  2. ^ David Baddiel. "David Baddiel's profile on The Infidel website". Slingshot Productions. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  3. ^ a b Taylor, Jerome (8 April 2010). "OK in Iran, shunned in Israel: film about Muslim born a Jew". The Independent (London). 
  4. ^ "The Infidel (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 

External links[edit]