In the midst of such uncertain times in the Middle East, what better way to break the proverbial bread with your neighbours than to make a film about a Jew raised as a Muslim. David Baddiel’s acerbic comedy is set in London’s East End, a generational melting pot of Huguenots, Irish, Jews and now Muslims. Subtly drawing on the co-existence of these faiths through a wittily outrageous, yet essentially warm hearted story, his characterisations show Muslims in a refreshingly ‘normal’ light.
West-London born Iranian comedian Omid Djalili plays Mahmud, an avid Tottenham Hotspur fan and loving family man who is not the most devoted Muslim but holds Islam close to his heart. Stumbling across adoption papers when clearing out his recently-deceased mother’s house, and with further not-so-subtle sleuthing, he discovers his birth parents are Jewish. To add to his woes he is forced to keep up ‘observant Muslim’ appearances for his son’s future father-in-law, a ‘radical’ cleric, who will only agree to give his stepdaughter away in marriage to the most pious of families.
The father-of-two finds an unlikely friend and ally in Lenny, a stoic Jewish American black cabbie (only in London), played by West Wing’s Richard Schiff, who helps initiate him into Jewish culture and practises. So ensues a battle of loyalties, inner turmoil and a bid for the hearts and minds of Mahmud’s family upon his revelation.
Prepare yourself for some bitingly offensive gags and some hilarious scenes. We witness our beleaguered hero testing the waters of his new identity by gauging his Muslim colleagues’ attitudes towards Jews and a stand-up performance at a bar mitzvah with a particular joke that is definitely below the belt.
Rarely has there been a comedy so ripe for a good airing given the fraught relations between many Muslims and Jews here in the UK, inextricably linked to Mu-Jew tensions abroad. Admirably ambitious in a small way, if this film does anything to aid interfaith relations by celebrating similarities and respecting differences, then there is hope for the Middle East peace process yet.
As featured on YMAG online