Halal Daddy is an Irish comedy directed by Conor McDermottroe, starring national treasure Colm Meaney and up and coming actors Sarah Bolger and Nikesh Patel. The film is marketed as a culture-clash comedy and I can’t think of a better phrase to describe it. It focuses on Raghdan Aziz (Nikesh Patel), a young British-Indian man, who goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Sligo to escape his father’s authority. His attempt to be independent fails when his father comes to Sligo to open a halal abattoire and Raghdan finds himself caught between two worlds: the traditional world of his Indian-Muslim heritage and his life with his friends in an Irish community. To make matters more complicated, Raghdan’s father puts Martin Logan (Meaney) in charge of the abattoire. Martin is not only the most Irish man you’ll ever see, but also the father of Raghdan’s girlfriend, Maeve, played by Sarah Bogler.
The humour of the film stems from this situation, as the Irish and South Asian cultures clash in the beautiful environment of a slaughterhouse where cows are killed with a machete. If I had to pick a line that could sumarise the whole film it would be this: “In Bradford, to the English guys I was a Paki, to the Paki guys I was an Indian, to the Indian guys I was a Muslim. This is as a good a place not to belong as any”.
In a world where Islam is misunderstood and faces a lot of bigotry, Halal Daddy is a breath of fresh air. Not only does it show an Ireland that is becoming more and more diverse, but it brings a humurous twist to those cultural representations that sometimes make you cringe in a drama (looking at you, Homeland!). Turns out that comedy is a great way to bridge cultural differences. The characters take the piss out of everything from race, religion and culture to youth unemployment, recreational drugs and vegetarianism in the most Irish way: with a typical “Ah, sure it’s grand!”.
Through Raghdan’s relationship with his father the film presents many social issues in Ireland: multiculturalism and the identity of a generation who can no longer place itself within one ethnicity or nationality, the intergenerational conflict between parents and children, the challenges of our generation, who finds itself trying to strive in an unstable economy. These themes are universal and, along with the humour, they make the viewer overcome cultural barriers and identify with the characters. And that is probably the biggest achievement of this film: to show that in today’s world, Irish and Muslims, Nigerians and Germans can live together in the same community with no harm done to anyone.
My only criticism is that the plot sometimes seems flat as the characters take too long in their progression and some scenes could have been removed in my opinion (but I am no editor). The chemistry between Nikesh Patel and Art Malik, who plays his father is amazing, making the more serious scenes very powerful. On their side, Colm Meaney and Deirdre O’Kane (who plays Raghdan’s aunt) offer comic relief with their very Irish sense of humour. If O’Kane’s repeated use of the word “arse” in different situations doesn’t make you laugh, I don’t know what will.
All in all this is definitely an enjoyable comedy, especially if you’ve had enough of the American toilet humour and you want to turn to something local.
Halal Daddy will be released in cinemas nationwide on June the 30th