Parvizi Watches: The Infidel

BAYAN PARVIZI: ‘if you are tired of sitting in the library, constant checking Facebook updates where you see that X has “just discovered that the Med-exams are online!! Yippee!”… The Infidel provides good respite.’

Josh Appingnanesi Mahmud Nasir Omid Djalili

Directed by Josh Appignanesi. 

I really wanted to love this film. I mean really. I gave it every chance going to give it my best review. Firstly, I volunteered to watch it, for the following reasons: Omid Djalili was my Sunday school teacher for several years, I’m a Spurs fan like the main character in the film and I’m a Norf London boy, which is where the film is set and where I chose to watch it. Yet despite my best efforts the film simply did not blow me away.

The story follows Mahmud Nasir, a pragmatic Muslim, who, as he enjoys the odd drop of beer and is an ardent football fan, is therefore the blueprint of multicultural Britain. Mahmud discovers whilst rummaging around his dead mother’s house that he was in fact adopted, and even worse, was born as a JEW named Solly Shimshillewitz.

So far the plot seems engaging and novel in dealing with 21st– century social and religious issues. There are funny moments too with Mahmud’s youngest daughter shouting slogans of hate “Down with the infidels!” over a bowl of Frosties. Matters are complicated by Mahmud’s son’s desire to marry a local cleric’s stepdaughter, whose wife has “big-jugs” and happens to be (for diehard Eastenders fans) Gita, as in Sanjay and Gita, from back-in-the-day.

We follow Mahmud’s journey of discovery like we follow Anton Du Beke on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ as he goes through stage one denial taking to wearing Islamic garb. In such a moment he bumps into Lenny, a black cabbie who is strangely American, and with his new friend in tow Mahmud plunges into proving he’s Jewish enough to be admitted into his dying biological father’s hospice room, which is guarded by a South African rabbi played horrendously by Matt Lucas.

Mahmud’s journey is funny at times, hilarious during the Barmitzvah scene, but then again that may be due to my experience of dull Barmitzvahs and therein lies a problem with the film; the subtlest and most funny jokes are exclusive to Muslims, Jews or those of us blessed to live in NW1–11 postcodes. Mahmud is caught in the trap of both wanting to find out his heritage but also staying true to his faith and his son’s desire to marry the girl of his dreams. Beyond the usual terrorist Muslims, big-nosed and world conquering Jews gags the film retreats to farce or the bizarre; a scene that sees Mahmud in a daydream where he is initially dressed in a concentration camp prisoner’s uniform is just uncomfortable to watch especially as it ends in Djalili on a swing in a tu-tu with a glittering Star of David behind him.

Due to Djalili’s recent sojourn into the world of Alexander the Meerkat, shots that are meant to show him brooding and walking towards the camera give the impression he’s going to end the shot selling us cheaper car inSHUUURance. There are also moments where the audience feel that they are sitting in a public-information commercial – “not all Jews and Muslims are bad” “women in burqas can break-dance” etc.

All in all this film is fun though leaves one disappointed as so much more could be done with the idea and actors. Chris Morris’ soon to be released ‘Four Lions’ seems like a far darker and comically superior alternative. Though if you are tired of sitting in the library, constant checking Facebook updates where you see that X has “just discovered that the Med-exams are online!! Yippee!” or that Y has replied to Z “don’t worry baby it’ll all be over soon – xx” then The Infidel provides good respite. Simples.