For 26 years Salam Kahil has operated his small business in Vancouver with the same amount of love and abuse. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a former male escort, the Lebanese Muslim owner of a Scandinavian deli with a French name has enthralled and repulsed consumers with sexually explicit tales of past exploits and frank, often unsolicited insults and advice. It’s just the kind of personal touch that keeps people coming back for more. He’s also an invaluable member of the local community, often helping those who can’t pay for his services and helping to feed the homeless.
The Sandwich Nazi offers up healthy portions of foul language and unique human interest. Kahil’s story is nothing short of astounding, but it’s often hard to tell how much of it the sandwich artist makes up to get a goose out of people. He’s a constant hustler, which makes him sometimes maddening to be around, but he’s charismatic and caring enough that people want to be brought into his world.
By the end, Bennett seems to have only scratched his subject’s hard-to-penetrate surface, but that’s okay considering that Salam is fascinating even on a superficial level. It also helps that Salam has led such an interesting and packed life that when he says he’s never seen human suffering like he’s seen on the streets of Vancouver, it doesn’t feel like someone talking out of their ass. It’s the most genuine and least flippant thing Salam says in the entire picture.