Courageous! “Avengers: Endgame” directors take on “Trumpian Islamophobia”

The Daily Beast really does think that Joe and Anthony Russo are being courageous in presenting Muslims in a positive manner, and the Russos claim that theirs is “the first film to represent Arabs in a positive way, Iraqis in a positive way and Muslims in a positive way.”

That is, of course, absurd. Virtually every portrayal of Islamic terrorists in film or on television is balanced by an anti-terror Muslim character; even Zero Dark Thirty, which chronicled the killing of Osama bin Laden, featured a U.S. intelligence officer who bore a strong resemblance to John Brennan, and who was seen engaging in Islamic prayer in his office. This is commonplace. And in Hollywood, the dominant view is that “Islamophobia” is a massive problem, Trump is evil, and Islamic jihad is either nonexistent or a justifiable reaction to Trump and the evils of America and Israel. The Russos’ new film is just more of the dreary same. The days when Hollywood was patriotic and portrayed threats to America in a realistic fashion are long, long gone.

“‘Avengers: Endgame’ Directors’ Next Battle: Taking On Trumpian Islamophobia,” by Marlow Stern,

…Marking the directorial debut of Matthew Michael Carnahan, Mosul tells the remarkable true story of the Nineveh SWAT team—an elite group of Iraqi soldiers fighting like hell to reclaim their fallen city from ISIS. All of the men in the unit are on a mission of vengeance, as its sine qua non is you must have lost a family member to ISIS in order to join. You can practically feel the bullets whizzing by as Carnahan drops you right into war-torn Iraq where Kawa (Adam Bessa), a 21-year-old police officer, is left with no other choice than to join Col. Jasem (Suhail Dabbach) and his SWAT team after barely eking his way out of a deadly firefight.

“For us, we can say this is the first film to represent Arabs in a positive way, Iraqis in a positive way and Muslims in a positive way. In war movies, there’s the American Sniper problem: You never see what’s on the opposite side,” says producer Mohamed Al-Daradji, himself kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents in the early aughts, who handled the logistics of the Marrakech film shoot. “We’ve never had a chance to represent ourselves at this level.”

In addition to Al-Daradji, Mosul is produced by the two biggest filmmakers in the world right now: Anthony and Joe Russo, aka the Russo Brothers—the director duo behind the Marvel superhero blockbusters Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, the last of which recently eclipsed Avatar to become the highest-grossing movie of all time. It’s the first film to be released by their independent film studio AGBO, and is eyeing a domestic distributor for an Oscar-qualifying run in December.

The Daily Beast sat down with the Russo Brothers at the Venice Film Festival to discuss their new film and why we need more diversity on screen—especially in the age of Trump….

One of the commendable things about this film—and there are several—is that it does give us Arab heroes, something this is in painfully short supply in Hollywood.

Joe Russo: It’s critical, because you reinforce either negative or positive ideas about representation if you tell the same kinds of stories over and over again. If these actors can only ever walk in a room to audition for a terrorist, then that is without question going to reinforce the way people perceive their culture.

As a kid growing up in the ‘90s, pretty much the only time we saw Arab characters in Hollywood films were playing terrorists. I grew up with Executive Decision and True Lies, and the Arab terrorists in True Lies are members of “Crimson Jihad,” just this comically absurd terrorist organization.

Joe Russo: Villainous cartoon characters.

Anthony Russo: And look, there’s an enormous creative upside here, too. As a storyteller and as a filmmaker, you’re always looking for new ways to bring new stories to the screen, new ways to engage audiences, new ways to surprise audiences, so what happened there in Mosul was so specific and so unique in the way the warfare played out there, and the complexities the characters had to deal with in terms of their allegiances, and who they were fighting against, and how they were fighting against them, that they had a very unique human experience happen. Nobody’s ever seen those dynamics together in a war movie before, or this story happen on screen before.

Many Americans—purely out of ignorance—view the conflicts in the Middle East broadly as this us-versus them, Christianity-versus-Islam thing. But in Mosul, by humanizing the Muslim fighters, it could help combat Islamophobia stateside.

Joe Russo: I think media is the most powerful tool for combating Islamophobia, and for combating racism….

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