Tribeca Films Scores Bi-Cultural Laughs with The Infidel (DVD)
Gender-bending comedies are old hat; Tribeca Films, through New Video, has released The Infidel, an ethnicity-bending independent film that is both poignant and hilariously funny.
Mahmud Nasir (Omid Djalili) is a moderate Muslim who, while packing up the belongings of his dead mother, finds out that he was adopted. Okay, he’s shocked--after all, he’s 48 years old, a man with a son old enough to be getting married and he never knew that he had been an abandoned baby. In an effort to discover his roots, he visits a bureaucratic adoption office where regulations prevent the worker from revealing his birth parents or birth name. Mahmud manages to terrorize the social worker, grab his folder, and learn his birth name--Solly Shimshillewitz. Yes, he was born a Jew.
Complicating matters are his son’s wedding plans and the father-in-law-to-be, the bride’s stepfather, a radical Muslim fundamentalist who must give his consent for the marriage. Son Rashid (Amit Shah) pleads with Mahmud to be “more Muslim,” so that their family passes muster with Arshad El Masri (Yigal Naor), not that there’s any fear that his young daughter--a tiny terrorist in training--will fail to impress.
Additionally, his biological father is dying in a nursing home and the Rabbi who is attending him will not allow Mahmud into his room until he becomes “more Jewish.” Mahmud takes this assignment seriously, enlisting the aid of the only Jew he knows, Lenny Goldberg (Richard Schiff in a master turn). He and Lenny are far from friends, but Lenny’s got a good heart underneath his sour disposition and takes Mahmud’s cause on as a mitzvah.
The film is littered with Muslim and Jewish jokes as Mahmud attempts to come out of his cultural closet. From an Imam who thinks he’s gay to a Bar Mitzvah where he becomes the speaker who must relate an old Jewish story (of course he doesn’t know any), Mahmud’s life is turned topsy-turvy. When he finally cracks and breaks the news--not just to his family but to the world--his troubles expand exponentially.Continued on the next page