“Stay a little”: will Gad Elmaleh be baptized?
On September 7, Gad Elmaleh caused a stir in the “cathosphere” by revealing that he had taken courses at the Collège des Bernardins. In a short video published on social networks, he testified to what he had “sought” and what he “found – but that’s in progress…” he announced. Was he referring to his Christian faith? “Reste un peu”, his new film, which will be released in theaters on November 16, tells of his journey as a convert preparing for baptism.
Watch the full interview with Gad Elmaleh
He is one of the favorite comedians of the French: however, in “Reste un peu” we only see a son, a brother, a friend, a man simply inhabited by an intimate quest. Approaching his 50th birthday, Gad Elmaleh decided one day to return after three years in the United States. The reason ? Not a midlife crisis, as he is told in the film. The comedian converted to Christianity. Committed to the catechumenate, will he receive baptism or not? The question remains unanswered throughout the film. It is the subject of a serious and deep questioning.
Gad Elmaleh must also face the reactions of those close to him. Born into a Jewish family, how should he respond to those who reproach him for denying his identity? What to say to his friends who remind him of the painful history of the persecutions against the Jews, committed in the name of the Christian faith? But Gad is inhabited. “I’m on a path,” he keeps repeating. A path initiated by Jean-Marie Lustiger, who inspires him. Catholic-born Cardinal Aron Lustiger to an Ashkenazi Jewish family, for whom the “Kaddish,” the Jewish prayer for the bereaved, was recited at his funeral. Besides, Gad has already chosen his baptismal name: it will be Jean-Marie.
Gad Elmaleh inhabited by the figure of Mary
“Reste un peu” is a very personal film, where the actor’s parents, Régine and David Elmaleh, and his sister Judith play. Between fiction and documentary, he alternates comic scenes and tormented moments. He is accompanied in his preparation for baptism by a nun and a priest, the parish priest of Sainte-Cécile in Boulogne-Billancourt, in the Paris region. We see Gad Elmaleh attending mass, entering churches, praying and sharing faith with other worshipers.
The film shows a fervent Gad Elmaleh, fascinated by the figure of Mary. It is also through her that he came to the Christian faith. “She protects me,” he repeats. It goes back to his childhood in Morocco. To this day, when, as a child, he defied parental prohibition and pushed the door of a church in Casablanca. There he was bowled over by a statue of the Madonna and Child.
A conversion journey
Beyond the actor’s personal journey, the film touches on the central question of the relationship between Jews and Christians.. Jesus was Jewish, Mary was also Jewish, the rabbi reminds Gad Elmaleh’s father. Is this supposed to reassure distraught parents? “Stay a bit”, is the tender plea of a mother to her son whom she is afraid of seeing his family abandon by becoming a Christian. By raising the question: can one be Catholic without being baptized? the film insists on the very intimate dimension of faith. Which can sometimes collide with the community dimension of religion.