Meet Mahmud Shimshillewitz

Infidel Family 300x157 Meet Mahmud ShimshillewitzThe next couple of weeks bring with them not only rapidly improving weather, but also the annual spring-time ritual, the Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival, this year featuring around 20 terrific films; among them, my favorite kind – Jewish comedies! And among them, the new British comedy,

The Infidel

This pretty-hilarious film features decidedly “relaxed” British Muslim Mahmud Nasir (terrific British comedian Omid Djalili) - who wears soccer jerseys, drinks beer, and has a hot wife who walks around in tank tops and tight jeans. Mahmud is a solidly “moderate” Muslim – calling extremist Imams “Wahabbi nutters,” and not wanting anything to do with them.

After the death of his mother, Mahmud finds out that he was, in fact, adopted. His birth name? Solly Shimshillewitz.

Now, Mahmud must race to learn about Judaism, in order to be allowed to see his dying Jewish father, while at the same time (a la The Birdcage), trying to pretend to be a devout Muslim, in order to impress the new step-father of the girl his son would like to marry – who just happens to be an extremist Pakistani Imam (played, ironically, by Israeli actor Igal Naor).

His Imam thinks he’s gay, his wife thinks he’s having a mid-life crisis… and as he takes on his equally “relaxed” Jewish neighbor Lenny Goldberg as his “Judaism” teacher, Mahmud finds himself learning about Fiddler on the Roof, matzah ball soup, doing the hora, and the proper pronounciation of “Oy!” – instead of the Shema or the five books of Moses.

As we watch Mahmud walk a very fine line between trying to impress his prospective father-in-law with his Muslim devotion, while also trying to impress his father’s rabbi with the sincerity of his Judaism, and trying to keep his family intact, the film asks some wonderful questions about what it really means to be a Jew, what Jewish-Muslim enmity really looks like, and what does life generally look like for a religious ”moderate”. And also, can you have a large Bollywood-style number at a Muslim wedding?

This film is definitely funny, and definitely worth seeing (although probably not recommended for children, and does feature quite a bit of what has recently come to be know, in movie-review parlance, as “language.” Personally, I’m still waiting to see a modern movie without any language, but there you have it.)

The Infidel is playing at the Sabes JCC on Thursday, March 31, at 6:00 PM.

For a full listing of all the terrific films playing in the Jewish Film Festival, click here. Many are definitely worth seeing!

Watch The Infidel trailer below, and then run out and see this film:

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FCC Disclosure: I received a free preview copy of this film, in order to write this review. If you have read any of my previous reviews, you know that that will not in any way influence my recommendation, or lack thereof, for a given film. I hope the lawyers are satisfied.

[Images: infidelmovie]

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About Jenna Mitelman

Jenna is a transplant to Minnesota from sunny California, where she graduated from UC Berkeley. She lives and works in Minneapolis, but secretly loves St. Paul. She is a former Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Plymouth and a regular speaker on the Arab-Israeli conflict with the JCRC Speakers' Bureau. She is also a big fan of Minnesota lakes and forests, and can regularly be found kayaking and snowshoeing up north, when she isn't rock climbing out west.

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