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Review: The Sandwich Nazi

May 5, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The door of Salam Kahil’s Vancouver delicatessen warns customers about coarse language and nudity, both of which are on full display in his shop, and in director Lewis Bennett’s documentary about him, The Sandwich Nazi.

Salam is a former male escort from Lebanon who opened the deli when he moved to Vancouver, where his customers are treated to stories of his sexual exploits.  But as the film shows us, the man behind the sandwiches and crude jokes also has a kind heart, and is frequently seen passing out food free of charge to people living on the streets in the Downtown Eastside.  He even encourages good manners amongst his customers, despite his own potty mouth.

Right from the opening scene, involving a wild story about a candle getting inconveniently stuck, The Sandwich Nazi offers plenty of laughs.  But as Salam confronts his painful past, and opens up about childhood sexual abuse, the film also becomes strangely moving.  Full of appropriately inspired profanity and some of the crudest stories imaginable, The Sandwich Nazi is an entertaining and sometimes unexpectedly emotional portrait of this truly unique character.

As a sidenote, The Sandwich Nazi actually played at Hot Docs two years ago.  It’s only finally getting a limited release now, following some reported disagreements between the subject and filmmaker over the direction that the film took, with Salam Kahil attesting that he doesn’t want anyone profiting off of it because “his life isn’t for sale.”  There was clearly something going on behind the scenes, but either way, the film is still worth checking out if you get the chance.

The Sandwich Nazi opens today in limited release at Carlton Cinema in Toronto.

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