Turin’s Infidel is a Muslim Homer Simpson
by Gabriele Barcaro
30/11/2010 - “Comedy is the best way to tackle dangerous themes such as religious conflicts, in order to play down and defuse absurdities,” says British director Josh Appignanesi, whose sophomore film The Infidel [trailer], in competition at the Turin Film Festival, proves we can laugh at Islamic fundamentalism.
Thanks to the corpulent Mahmud (the irresistible Omid Djalili), who is not exactly a perfect Muslim: he drinks, doesn’t fast during Ramadan and rarely goes to the mosque to pray. However, his son wants to marry his true love, for which he needs the “blessing” of her stepfather, a Bin Laden type who would never give her away to the son of an infidel.
No problem, all that’s required is an accelerated course in the Koran. Except for one small detail. When going through his mother’s old documents, Mahmud discovers he’s adopted – and Jewish.
An unbridled farce ensues, amid decidedly unorthodox Talmud lessons (from disenchanted taxi driver Richard Schiff of The West Wing), “melting pot” entertainment and inter-religious satire (“What’s a Jewish Buddhist? Someone who gives up all wordly possessions, but holds onto the receipts”).
“I didn’t want to make fun of any one group,” says Appignanesi, “but rather how religion is too often exploited for the wrong purposes”. He succeeds, through the contagious energy of a “Muslim Homer Simpson” who has conquered broad audiences, “both the ‘everyman’ of Islamic faith and the Jews, who like the Yiddish humour in the film.”
It would seem like the best of all worlds and yet, adds the director, “Israel is one of the few countries in which the film was not bought, and in the Middle East it only plays festivals because it’s been censured by the distribution circles”.
(Translated from Italian)