A Middle Eastern hero starring in an American comedy film is no ordinary save-the-day tale.
In the Indiegogo-funded film Jimmy Vestvood, Amerikan Hero, comedian Maz Jobrani plays an Iranian hero named Jimmy, who hails from Westwood, Calif., known as the capital of the Iranian diaspora in the United States. (“Vestvood” pokes fun at the Iranian accent, which typically puts a “v” sound ahead of certain words starting with consonants.) Jimmy is no conventional hero, though; the private investigator with a burly mustache has a flair for solving Hitchcockian murder mysteries while hiding his adventures from his overprotective mother.
Jobrani, an Iranian, uses comedy in film and in his standup comedy routines to counter Hollywood’s stereotyping of Middle Easterners as “bad guys.”
The lack of enthusiasm and support for a film featuring a different kind of hero became apparent after rejections from various production companies. So Jobrani launched an Indiegogo campaign and raised just shy of half its $250,000 funding goal in its three-month duration.
“Indiegogo did help us get the word out about the project,” Jobrani told Mashable via email. “In the past, you needed a publicist to get you on the right radio and TV shows. That still exists, but social media has made it all a lot more grassroots.”
Although the campaign didn’t fully reach its funding goal, the film gained more exposure online and later raised funds from private investors at a final budget of $500,000. Other indie films gave garnered funds this way, and two Kickstarter-backed films even received Oscar nominations in 2013: Kings Point for Best Documentary (Short Subject) and Buzkashi Boys for Short Film (Live Action).
We have been so bombarded with Middle Easterners as the bad guys that it’s time we start changing that trend. Most of the Middle Eastern people I know are good people. Jimmy Vestvood is just one small step in the right direction of humanizing an entire population.”
Using comedy as a diplomatic tool between Iran and the West is a familiar technique for Jobrani. His standup routine, which he recently performed in Sweden and on the DVD “I Come in Peace,” employs the same tactic. It’s a refreshing approach, as comedy is usually absent from reports on relations between the West and Iran.
The crew wrapped an 18-day shoot in Los Angeles this month and plans to release the film in theaters next summer.