Tackling the heavy subject matter of an interfaith relationship between a Muslim and a Jew, Roschdy Zem, wearing two hats here as both director and lead actor, approaches his subject matter from a comedic angle, lightening the political and spiritual load of his film's premise. Zem plays Ishmael, a non-practicing Muslim with a Jewish best friend, who's been living with equally non-practicing Jewish girlfriend Clara (the lovely Cécile De France, also seen at SIFF this year in The Singer opposite Gerard Depardieu) for four years without religion being an issue. All that changes, though, when Clara gets pregnant. Suddenly, religious matters seem more important: Clara hangs a mezuzah (Jewish good luck symbol) on the doorway of their apartment; Ishmael insists that if the baby is a boy, he will be named after his father -- though he doesn't even like his father's name.
To further complicate matters, even after four years of living together, neither of them has told their parents about who they are dating. Having a baby on the way forces the issue, though -- they can no longer hide this potentially explosive issue from their families. Clara, when questioned by her parents about the identity of her mystery boyfriend -- is he a good Jewish boy? a Christian? -- will only reply that "he's French, like us." In a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner-esque scene, Clara decides to spring Ishmael on her family by inviting him to their house for dinner. Clara's father, opening the door to Ishmael holding a bouquet of flowers intended for Clara, mistakenly assumes that Ishmael is the delivery boy (yes, that's been done before, a lot, and it's just as predictable here as when we've seen it elsewhere, but that's a minor quibble).Clara's mother doesn't handle well the initial shock of learning that her daughter is dating -- much less pregnant by -- a Muslim man. Her father puts on his game face and deals with it the best he can, while Clara's wild-and-crazy single aunt, who knew about Ishmael all along, sits back and enjoys the ride, occasionally lambasting Clara's parents when they get on their "but he's a Muslim" rants by reminding them that they aren't even practicing Jews. For his part, Ishmael can't even bring himself to raise the issue of his girlfriend with his mother (his father has been dead for some years), even though her best friend (who is the mother of his own best friend) is Jewish, and the family is not exactly fundamentalist Muslim; Ishmael's younger sister is a tough, tomboyish soccer player, not some demure Muslim girl walking around Paris in a burqa.
De France, as usual, shines on screen, and she and Zem have solid, believable chemistry playing opposite each other here. In spite of the potential weightiness of the subject matter -- especially with terrorism and war going on all around us -- Zem handles the issues deftly and tosses in enough comedic moments to keep the film from feeling too political. At its heart, this is a story about two people in love who suddenly realize they have differences to overcome -- and more similarities than it might seem in the heat of the moment. Will these star-crossed lovers overcome their religious differences and find a way to unite their Jewish and Muslim families? You'll have to watch it yourself to find out. The film doesn't have a release date listed yet, though IMDb does list both US and worldwide distribution; with a little luck (and faith?) you'll be able to catch Bad Faith at an indie theater soon.