Joe & Anthony Russo: Why The Story Of ‘Mosul’ “Needed To Be Told” — Toronto Guest Column

By Joe Russo, Anthony Russo | September 5, 2019

Writer/directors Joe and Anthony Russo
Courtesy of AGBO Studios

Joe and Anthony Russo’s follow-up to the box office-breaking Avengers: Infinity War is a producing passion project that burned strong. Mosul, directed by Matthew Michael Carnahan, tells the story of the elite Iraqi SWAT team that made the fight against ISIS truly personal. Writing exclusively for Deadline, the Russo Bros. explain why this Arabic-language war movie was the essential follow-up to their mastery of the MCU.

There are always the stories you want to tell. But the most important stories are the ones that need to be told.

“The Avengers of Mosul” is a profound New Yorker article written by Luke Mogelson. It has been a long time since we’ve read a piece of journalism that left us in tears at the end. Luke’s article details war on a devastating scale, documenting heartbreak and the resilience of the human spirit under the most disturbing and violent circumstances. It offers insight into a part of the world we often don’t direct enough of our attention towards.

Jose Haro

When you look at pictures of Mosul, Iraq, you see a gut-wrenching portrait of modern warfare. A city laid waste, drenched in grief and suffering. Mosul is the true story of the Nineveh SWAT team, who combed the streets of their broken city searching for loved ones, and spending their blood trying to pry their hometown from the deadly grip of ISIS. The only criteria for joining Nineveh SWAT was that you had to have been injured by ISIS, or, more harrowingly, had someone you love murdered at the hands of ISIS. Sadly, it was not difficult criteria to fulfill.

As detailed in the pages of the New Yorker, the Nineveh SWAT team embodied the essential nature of heroism. And we embraced their story as a story that needed to be told…

Director Matthew Michael Carnahan behind the scenes of 'Mosul'
Jose Haro

We endeavored to employ this narrative as an opportunity to bridge cultures on the film production front, which was diligently addressed both in front of and behind the camera. But more importantly, we wanted to activate the audience. We wanted to make them aware of the tragic conflict tearing apart this corner of our planet. And we were lucky enough to find a uniquely equipped and supremely talented writer/director in Matt Carnahan, who was wholly committed to expressing this point of view.

Authenticity was critical to all of us. We wanted to portray this story with as much specificity as possible. And the only way to do that was to enlist collaborators who understood the narrative on the most intimate, personal level. Collaborators who had lived this story. Collaborators who had had firsthand experience with this conflict. Collaborators who called Iraq home. This film could not have been made without their contributions, nor without the most dedicated commitment to an Iraqi perspective. This is why the story is told completely in Arabic. To honor the narrative, and to honor the members of Nineveh SWAT.

When we launched AGBO three years ago, we did it with the intention of finding projects that inspire us. Projects that moved us.

We set a very clear agenda at our company that these were the types of stories that we wanted to tell. That these were the types of stories that needed to be told…