Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
A depiction of widespread bigotry between Christians and Muslims doesn’t have to be in the form of a news report or a violent work of fiction to be effective. In fact, it can take place on a playground, with injuries no more grievous than bloodied noses. Excuse My French tells the story of Hany, an Egyptian whose father is a churchgoing Christian. When Dad dies suddenly, Hany’s nonbelieving—or embarrassed—mother stores the home’s religious artifacts and is forced by her tight finances to send Hany to a public, all-Muslim school. “Don’t talk to anyone about religion,” she tells him, so the normally spunky and popular kid goes to great lengths to hide his upbringing. He’s bullied by the rambunctious students anyway, and naturally his secret is eventually unveiled. Though the film’s main message is tolerance, it also shows kids mimicking their parents in good ways and bad, the harshness of schoolyard hierarchies, and the courage an underdog must summon to stand up for himself. Yet instead of feeling like a lecture, the film is mostly lighthearted, with jokes about preadolescent Facebook stalking and boys who are hot for teacher. The title seems to be taken from a poorly translated running insult, but that’s the only detail that’s subpar.