People are loving this parody movie trailer about an Arab superhero from Toronto
A Toronto-based sketch comedy duo has created their own trailer for a Marvel-style movie that poses the question: what if the newest superhero was an Arab guy from Toronto named Habib?
Since Toronto actor Simu Liu was recently cast as Marvel's first Chinese superhero, the trailer could even be considered an informal pitch — especially considering Liu himself is actually a fan of the video made by Wishful Genies.
"Simu Liu said he enjoyed it on Facebook and Scott Derrickson, the writer of Dr. Strange, even retweeted the video and said it was hysterical. It goes to show there's a real market for original and diverse content like this," Rob Michaels, who plays Habib, told blogTO.
"It's been shared over 3,000 times on Instagram alone and is at 40,000 views on YouTube and almost 600,000 cumulatively on Tik Tok in just a week. People all over the world have seen this video, and both our parents have had friends from places like Sweden and the UK forward the video to them on WhatsApp saying that it was forwarded to them."
Michaels, one half of Wishful Genies, told blogTO that the idea for the parody "started during a conversation about superheroes and representation with our close friend Jonathan Shaboo, who plays the old man who tells Habib to get married."
"Jon said we should make our own Arab superhero, and I agreed and laughed, but didn't take it seriously since it would be impossible without a real budget," says Michaels.
"However, I later had a thought that if I did somehow manage to become a superhero, my parents would probably still prefer I was a doctor. And that's when all the jokes started to come. I called Fady immediately to tell him I wanted to do a sketch about an Arab superhero, and he said he had the same idea a while back."
Throughout the trailer, Habib's world-saving exploits (which include smoking hookah and using bread as a weapon) are peppered with judgment from his parents about his career path and when he'll be getting married.
"The reason it became a trailer was because we had so many joke ideas that wouldn't fit into just one scene, so we felt that a trailer would be the best way to incorporate the many aspects of being Middle Eastern and still have it be part of the same story," Michaels and fellow Wishful Genies member Fady Ghali told blogTO.
"We brought the script to Kenzie Yango, our executive producer, cinematographer and camera operator, who gave notes on it and then worked with us for over four days to shoot and direct the video. He even had the idea to drive to the sand dunes in Belleville at 4 a.m. to catch the sunrise and get footage in what looks like a real desert."
Yango also composed original music and edited the trailer to make it as professional as possible. They also called in favours to get the trailer edited professionally for free by people who believe in the idea, like sound editor Daniel Samaan and VFX specialist David Cadiz.
"Since we were filming during COVID, we quarantined in our homes for two weeks before seeing each other. We then cast bubbled actors to be in scenes together — for example, the two agents played by Aris Tyros and Jessalyn Ferguson are a real life couple, and they were also previously bubbled with Brittany Charlotte Smith, the love interest," Michaels and Ghali said.
"We also utilized our roommates, spouses, and family as other cast members. One of our producers, MK Morris, worked on a large film production during COVID and helped guide us through adhering to COVID protocols and keeping our sets safe. Then, once we started filming, we had masks on set at all times the camera wasn't rolling."
While there's been an explosive response to the trailer — comments on the YouTube video include "As an Arab myself, this killed me. Well-done" and "Dude we need arab subtitles! My parents need to see this hahaha" — sadly it hasn't been all positive.
"Many people tried claiming that Ms. Marvel, which is set to air later this year, is already going to be the first Arab superhero. While we're very excited about that show, those people don't realize that Ms. Marvel isn't Arab, she's from Pakistan. We even tried correcting these comments and we were met with 'same thing' or 'close enough,'" say Michaels and Ghali.
"The worst part is that we honestly expected ignorant and racist comments to show up eventually. However, we're hopeful that if there actually was an Arab superhero in mainstream media or just more representation in general, these negative associations would slowly begin to fade."
The creation of the trailer is also inspired by the real life experiences of many Arab performers: most of their auditions are for the roles of terrorists or refugees.
"We saw how much Black Panther brought to the Marvel Universe and how much it meant to the Black community, so why not do that with more communities? We would love to have the Black Panther equivalent for Arabs one day," say Michaels and Ghali.
"We're hoping that with this trailer we can influence that change or in an ideal world, be that change ourselves. Feel free to let Marvel know we're available for Phase 4, but we can wait until Phase 5 if we absolutely have to."
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