Male escort, musician, art collector and deli owner Salam Kahil has led an interesting life.
Dispensing sandwiches and free advice to anyone who walks into his store in Vancouver, Kahil’s flamboyant no-holds-barred attitude to discussing his sex life, amongst other regularly taboo topics, is the subject of this very left-field documentary.
Jumping between Kahil’s encounters with various customers and locals, interviews with friends, discussions of his childhood in Lebanon and continued efforts to support his community’s less fortunate members, the filmmakers have centred the documentary almost entirely on the personality and often magnetic appeal of its protagonist.
A charming and frequently entertaining figure, the image of the enigmatic deli owner, who is clearly a local fixture and object of great interest to the filmmakers, will struggle to maintain an audience’s interest throughout the feature-length documentary, albeit with a short 72-minute run time.
Anecdotes and stories told by the businessman are often compelling listening, but not repeatedly so, with the filmmakers diverting to detail his recovery after a series of accidents, concluding the film with an emotional return trip to Lebanon where Kahil is reunited with members of his family.
The title, which was ostensibly chosen due to a newspaper clipping which features at the end of the film [and a clear analogy to Seinfeld’s famous ‘Soup Nazi’] does little to explain the documentary’s real focus or appeal, and can actually be misleading for filmgoers who think that they’re about to watch a sandwich-maker brusquely harass his patrons. Rather, the simple attraction of this film comes from watching a man who genuinely cares for his customers and local community and tries to help through words and actions, despite often going into too much detail about his various sexual encounters.
Filled with a motley mix of humorous and awkward interactions with astonished customers, The Sandwich Nazi is an interesting idea for a documentary, albeit with a premise too heavily stretched.