Matthew Michael Carnahan’s Gritty Iraq Drama ‘Mosul’ Acquired By 101 Studios In U.S. Deal With AGBO

Jose Haro

EXCLUSIVE: 101 Studios has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Mosul, the Matthew Michael Carnahan-directed drama that is the among the first films generated by AGBO, the monied production company launched by Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo. AGBO financed the film, and produced with Condé Nast Entertainment.

'Mosul' director Matthew Michael Carnahan with stars Suhail Dabbach and Bilal Adam Bessa
Dabbach, left, Carnahan and Bessa Chris Chapman/Deadline

Carnahan wrote the script based on a Luke Mogelson article in the New Yorker about an elite police unit made up almost entirely of native sons of Mosul and their desperate fight, block-by-block, to reclaim their city from ISIS. All of the men bear physical and emotional scars from having lost loved ones to the terror group — one carries video of his older brother’s beheading by ISIS — so they have no shortage of motivation for their thankless heroic job. Mosul was shot in secret this past spring on location in the Middle East by Oscar-winning cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Avatar), and the film features standout performances by Suhail Dabbach (The Hurt Locker) as the unit’s leader, and Adam Bessa as a young recruit. The rest of the cast was drawn from the Middle East, North Africa and the Iraqi diaspora.

The film, which was shot in local Arab dialect spoken in Iraq, was lauded after it premiered at the Venice and Toronto film festivals this fall. Upstart 101 Studios started its chase at that time, pitted against competitors that included numerous streaming services offering bigger numbers. The Russos and Carnahan decided they wanted a theatrical release for the film. It would be late to enter the crowded year end awards fray, so they will release in 2020. Endeavor Content is selling the overseas territories.

AGBO’s Russo Brothers and Mike Larocca produced with Condé Nast’s Jeremy Steckler and Dawn Ostroff. The executive producers are AGBO’s Todd Makurath, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely along with Mohamed Al-Daradji, Patrick Newall, Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei.

Jose Haro

Said Joe & Anthony Russo: “Our writer-director Matthew Michael Carnahan was the perfect artist to depict this uniquely regional story which champions a culture that has never really been championed on screen before. The heart of the movie depicts the innate desire to fight for country and home.”

Said 101 Studios CEO David Glasser: “Matthew Michael Carnahan’s incredible depiction of the brave men of the Nineveh SWAT team and the sacrifices they made for their own war-torn country resonates as a perspective to the Middle East to which we’re not accustomed. This extraordinary film produced by the Russo brothers possess the exact vigor and dedication to storytelling that we at 101 Studios continue to champion.”

Carnahan, whose credits include the AGBO drama 21 Bridges that STX releases November 22, World War Z, The Kingdom and Deepwater Horizon, said he had decided to adapt the New Yorker article before he finished reading.

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

“I hadn’t even finished Luke Mogelson’s New Yorker article about the Nineveh SWAT Team when I knew I wanted to tell this story on film, and with actors from that part of the world, speaking their native language —so that someday we might be able to show a larger audience how remarkable the people on this team are, how they’ve had to live their lives quite literally from one minute to the next, in the broken remains of their city, endlessly fighting a group trying to take everything from them,” Carnahan said. “And by making a film about this subject, in this manner, maybe we could get at a larger truth about just how similar we as decent human beings are — despite differences in language, culture, or religion, we all want the same things for the people we love — it’s just that some people have to wade through hell to have a chance at those things. That this hope I had two years ago while reading an article has actually come to fruition is still hard to believe. I cannot say ‘thank you’ to Joe and Anthony Russo enough for providing me the opportunity, nor can I thank the people at Studio 101 enough for making this particular dream come true.”

Hatched by Glasser and David Hutkin, 101 Studios launched with the Taylor Sheridan-created Kevin Costner TV series Yellowstone, and released its first film in Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s The Current War: Director’s Cut, with the Forest Whitaker-Garrett Hedlund drama Burden upcoming.

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