Gad Elmaleh and Mehdi Djaadi: secrets of confessions

VS’is the story of a Jew and a Muslim who enter a church: one sees the Virgin, the other Christ, and here they are both propelled to the paradise of existential crises! Gad Elmaleh make it into a movie Stay a bit ; Mehdi Djaadi, a one man show, Coming out. Two socio-cultural UFOs that put their feet in the dish with infinite delicacy. The dish ? That of religion, identity, communitarianism, in short, all those subjects that are politely avoided in public because they are… “touchy”. “I hate that word, but it’s the one that’s been thrown at me right now. Great journalists tell me: “Sorry, Gad, I love your film, I would so much like to welcome you to talk about it but, you understand… it’s too touchy!” This is the first time in my life that I see this. »

It is also the first time that we have seen him indulge himself to this point. But this is not the first time that he has taken a close interest in the miracle of faith that he evoked during his shows. In this touching comedy with false airs of documentary, he reveals his journey towards the Catholic faith since his meeting with the Virgin Mary, child, in a church in Casablanca, then, in Lourdes, when he co-produced a musical show on Bernadette Soubirous. Despite its perilous subject, Stay a bit finds the right tone between laughter and emotion, between the intimate and the universal.

“Initially, the script told the story of a Jewish novelist confessing his love for Mary to the great amazement of his parents,” explains the comedian. “My producer, Isaac Sharry, a practicing Jew, said to me: ‘But why are you hiding? I’ve known you for 30 years and you’ve been talking to me about the Virgin Mary all the time. . Why don’t you tell your own story? It’s much more beautiful.” »

READ ALSOCésar: are French comedies cursed?

Rather than hiring actors, he then convinces his parents to participate in the filming by hiding the subject of the film. Likewise, he appealed to true religious – Father Barthélémy of the church of Boulogne-Billancourt, Sister Catherine, Brother Benoît, the rabbis Delphine Horvilleur and Pierre-Henri Salfati – and his comrade Mehdi Djaadi, whom I met during a Google search. “It was the time when I devoured everything I could on the subject. By typing “conversion”, I came across Mehdi. »

The gaze of others and social pressure

Of Algerian origin and of Muslim faith, Mehdi Djaadi depicts the astonishing journey that led him from delinquency to Christianity in a bloody show but still benevolent and funny. “There was a form of artistic urgency to talk about that,” he says. It was a period when we heard that there were many French people converting to Islam and I found that this other story was missing. » That of the more than 300 Muslims (between 5 and 10% of adult baptisms) who, each year, convert to Catholicism. “What I show in my show, and this is also what Gad’s film points to, is a questioning of determinism, of identity: do we have to be what the people think we are? »

“When I wanted to tell my conversion from Islam to Catholicism in a film, I was told that this subject was too delicate”Mehdi Djaadi

The gaze of others, social pressure, is what makes Gad Elmaleh waver in Stay a bit where friends and relatives accuse him of denying himself. “You should know that a conversion is an earthquake, especially for a Sephardic Jewish family,” admits the person concerned. “It is a tragedy. The philosopher Edith Stein says that the first time she saw her mother cry was the day she learned that she had converted to Catholicism. We are talking about a person who experienced the Holocaust…”

If the ex-Pet managed to involve his parents in the adventure, Mehdi Djaadi, he was never able to bring them to his show and had to cut ties with his brothers and with Algeria where his apostasy earned him death threats . “When I wanted to tell that in a film, I was told that this subject was too delicate”, he notes. “Oddly, the same year, there was the film May Allah bless France where Abd al Malik recounts his journey from Catholicism to Sufism. Sometimes tolerance only tolerates itself… Our journey is nevertheless an ode to secularism and fraternity. » And Gad Elmaleh to rebound: “In Mehdi’s show, Islam is questioned. It is jostled, it is dented, questioned, but it is also luminous and valued. And for my part, I have never talked so much about Judaism since I immersed myself in the Catholic religion. Like Cardinal Lustiger, a converted Jew, whom he quotes in the epilogue of his film: “Thus, in the course of my life, I felt that I was becoming a Jew because by embracing the Christianity, I finally discovered the values ​​of Judaism, far from denying them. »

The success of Coming outwhich is almost sold out at the Tristan-Bernard theatre, underlines the public’s interest in the subject. Stay a bit will he meet the same enthusiasm? One thing is certain, the discussions will be animated at the exit of the rooms. “Just the fact that this film exists, that people from such different backgrounds can talk about it among themselves, is necessary. Why should we always, when we talk about religion, be it from the angle of the Manif pour tous or the veil? We talk about spirituality, it’s beautiful, it feels good. »

Coming out, Wednesday and Thursday, at 9 p.m., at the Tristan-Bernard theater (Paris). Exceptional date at La Cigale, Sunday January 8, 2023.
Stay a bitin theaters November 16.

Gad Elmaleh and Mehdi Djaadi: secrets of confessions