The minds behind Avengers: Endgame are preparing for the release of their first film post-Marvel, Mosul, which premieres in Venice this week. The documentary-style movie is based on a New Yorker article titled, "The Avengers of Mosul," and the Russo's are striving for authenticity in all things: location, cast, even language.
Mosul is a true story about an elite Iraqi SWAT team made up of Iraqi citizens who faced loss or injury at the hands of ISIS. The emotional story follows the team as they fight back against the terrorist group in order to put an end to the attack and oppression of their homes. It strives to give a visceral look into their relentless pursuit and the terrible struggles they go through and the loved ones they've lost.
The film is produced by Joe and Anthony Russo through their AGBO production company. The brothers are self-proclaimed "news junkies" that are constantly reading the news to help inform their work on the many Marvel films. They first discovered the article when Stephen McFeely brought it to their attention in 2017, and Joe called it the "best piece of journalism [they] ever read," saying he cried by the end of it. Anthony is committed to bringing the true story to American audiences.
"Putting yourself in a place that's opposite to what your normal orientation may be is so helpful in terms of breaking open ideas, and creativity, and story possibilities."
The Russo's singular priority for their new production company is to create projects that they are passionate about. Mosul fit the bill perfectly and was one of the first things they decided to pursue as a studio. The producers credit the article for their decision to bring the story to the big screen despite having no experience in the Middle East because it made the issue "so simple and so clear and so vivid." Anthony had this to say about story.
"I was really grateful to be able to connect with the situation in that way, on an emotional level, through a human story that I can understand. The excitement of bringing that kind of experience to more people through a movie, that's what drove us forward..."
The busy schedule of back to back Avengers films forced them to take a backseat, however, so the brothers called upon Matthew Michael Carnahan to write the script and direct. The first thing they decided on was authenticity. Carnahan proposed the film be shot entirely in the dialect spoken in that region in Iraq, saying this.
"These guys are dying weekly trying to get back to their families. The least we can do is tell it using actors from their part of the world, speaking their language."
Getting the dialect right Isn't an easy task considering there are upwards of 24 countries with Arabic as their official language, and each have varying regional dialects, but it was important to the team from AGBO to try to tap into the experience as best they could. Executive producer Mohamed AlDaradji was brought on to help bridge the cultural gap. He helped build the Middle Eastern cast, transport them from Iraq to Morocco where the film was to be shot, gather Iraqi crew members, and ensure that the dialogue, dialect, story and cast remained truthful. Having lived and filmed in Iraq, AlDaradji was a perfect fit. So much care was put towards the language that even Iraqi citizens were fooled by the non-Iraqi actors' accents.
Mosul stars Suhail Dabbach as Colonel Jasem and Adam Bessa as his young recruit. Dabbach was able to bring his own experience to the project as well. The popular Iraqi actor fled his home and applied for asylum in the US when Saddam placed one of his children in charge of the arts.
This marks Carnahan's directorial debut. He was a writer on the films The Kingdom, World War Z and 21 Bridges, and he is equally passionate about bringing Mosul to the big screen. The film premieres in Venice in America this week, and the creators hope to bring it to the Middle East as well in cinemas perhaps in Cairo, Baghdad or Beirut, but unfortunately, Mosul doesn't have a cinema now. You can check out the full interview at Deadline