Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Religious Diversity from the Infidel; RELIGION Is an Area Where Most People Tread Carefully. Not So David Baddiel, Who Tells DAVID WHETSTONE Why a Hapless Jewish Muslim Is the Hero of His New Film

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Religious Diversity from the Infidel; RELIGION Is an Area Where Most People Tread Carefully. Not So David Baddiel, Who Tells DAVID WHETSTONE Why a Hapless Jewish Muslim Is the Hero of His New Film

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

FORTUNE has smiled on David BaddieI. The ash cloud has dispersed and he is able to fly to the States today for the American premiere of his film The Infidel, for which wrote the screenplay.

But he found time yesterday to ring The Journal because the film opens at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle tomorrow.

It has been opening gradually across the country but David is chuffed because even with only 56 screens showing it, The Infidel stands at number 13 at the UK box office.

"Every other movie above us is on at least 400 screens," says a man who has been variously comedian, football pundit, author, literary critic and high achieving university scholar.

The Infidel stars Iranian comic Omid Djalili as Mahmud Nasir, a Muslim who discovers he was adopted as a baby and was actually born a Jew.

All of which would seem to confirm that David Baddiel, who is happy to describe himself as a Jewish atheist, is a man who ventures where angels fear to tread. "I didn't want to do anything that was deliberately controversial or set out to offend or anything like that," he insists.

"I thought it was a good idea for a film and it comes from an uncertainty people have always had about my own ethnic origins."

He explains that people have always vaguely understood that he was Jewish. Then he says he used to get fan letters from Indian women who thought he was from the subcontinent.

"It was great," he agrees. But the confusion over his ethnic identity -echoed, he says, by Omid, who has been cast in all sorts of vaguely Middle Eastern roles - led him to begin work on what he hopes is a pretty knockabout comedy.

Censors in the Middle East have already put the kybosh on a general release there but he hopes the Americans, many of whom are ostentatiously devout, won't give it a hard time.

All the screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, where the premiere takes place, were sold out in five minutes, he points out.

"So they've liked it so far and they were keen to have it. I think it might work better there because they are more used to the Jewish comic voice.

"I suppose what they're not so used to are films that are happy to venture into areas where they wouldn't normally go. …

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