The success of ‘Mosul’, one of Netflix’s most viewed films in Europe and the Middle East, led to its makers fearing for their lives
Producers of Mosul, Joe and Anthony Russo, have finally broken their silence on reports of receiving death threats from the Islamic State.
The duo’s Iraqi Arabic-language war thriller, which premiered on Netflix on November 26, 2020, quickly went on to become the platform’s one of the most successful films of the year; but the consequences of the film's high viewership were soon to be grave.
“When I posted on my social media that the film was going to come out, the first day there was a lot from IS,” one of the lead actors, Suhail Dabbach, told Deadline. “They put on a lot of videos and bad words. Like, they have said, now we know you, and you have to watch yourself. Every day, touch your head to make sure it is still on. They said, ‘we know where you live and we will reach you.’”
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Director Matthew Carnahan characterized the death threats as “a terrible byproduct” of the movie’s success with audiences overseas, with Joe Russo admitting that it has “certainly been an unnerving experience for the actors.”
“It’s never a comfortable feeling to have your privacy violated, and it’s terrifying to receive death threats from anonymous sources. We feel it has been handled expertly by Netflix and by our own security team."
“I will only say we’ve treated this very seriously,” Anthony Russo added. “We knew the movie was provocative and potentially dangerous for anyone involved. We took the highest security measures we could think of and we were familiar with that process after working on the Marvel movies.”
“This was a whole new level in terms of secrecy,” Anthony continued. “We didn’t distribute scripts; we had a code name for the movie and pulled every reference of IS out of scripts when we did have to distribute them, so they were never explicitly mentioned as they were in the film."
"We had the best security people working with us but still, there was danger, but we had to be in a Middle Eastern country to make the film like we did. We were exposed and had to do as responsible as we could but everyone felt it was worth the risk.”
Deadline reported, “Dabbach’s family has received similar scary threats, and his co-star Adam Besa, who plays the policeman who gets drafted into the SWAT team, watched his Instagram page get wiped clean and he has been threatened on WhatsApp. Those threats were traced to Turkey. Both the film’s financier AGBO, Netflix and 101 Studios have taken it seriously enough to direct internal security forces to step in and make sure everyone is safe.”
The film’s official synopsis reads, “When IS took their homes, families and city, one group of men fought to take it all back. Based on true events, this is the story of the Nineveh SWAT team, a renegade police unit who waged a guerrilla operation against ISIS in a desperate struggle to save their home city of Mosul.”