One of the most positive aspects about the Arts and specifically film, is that it allows us to step into the experiences and thoughts of others. Film often makes the impossible transition from sympathy to empathy, in a very safe way. Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist is a film which approaches a very prevalent and modern situation. The filmmakers have chosen a very unusual approach in the presentation of their idea; a romantic comedy. It’s not the usual approach for this subject matter and Brain Mancini is not the typical producer. With films like; A Meditation, Dryland, Star-O, and others to his Producer credits, Mancini has enabled many diverse films to be created for the public’s viewing. With Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist, Brian was attracted to a number of aspect of this film. His litmus test is always, “Would I want to see this movie?” and it was a resounding “YES!” for him. Ultimately, Mancini states that what confirms his decision to work on a project is if he believes in the story being told. Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist is a film which challenges the idea of stereotyping others in our modern age and tells us as much about ourselves as it does about those whom we might be unfamiliar with, as well as engaging us to question the reasons behind our thoughts. That probably sounds like a lofty status for a Rom-Com if you haven’t seen the film. The use of this genre to tackle the idea at its core, as well as some very interesting approaches to filming, removes a great deal of negativity out of the film, allowing the audience to focus on their own individual perception rather than a mob mentality.
Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist garnered a nomination at both the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and the Casting Society of America, USA. Being recognized by perhaps the most famous New York film festival as well as the professional community which seeks diversity in casting is the kind of outstanding achievement that lets Mancini know that he is striking a resonant chord with this film. His fellow producer Roja Gashtili (known for her work on Morgan Spurlock’s A DAY IN THE LIFE, MTV’s EXILED ,SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: IN THE 90s) refers to Brian as “a magician!” Assembling the components (crew, cast, logistics, finances) needed to make a film which deals with people fears, prejudices, and matters of the heart, would certainly take some sort of magic to manifest. Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist is really the story of someone who is being treated as an outsider even though they’ve spent their entire life in the US. When Iranian-born Rita sets out to change her life from ordinary to extraordinary, she accidentally captures the attention of Homeland Security. The film is a satirical comedy about romance and trying to be a better person. For example, when Rita attempts to make some friends by hosting a dinner party, it just so happens that she’s also acquiring the same household materials that could be used to make explosives. With her Iranian background, she gets flagged as a possible threat to public safety. Mancini states, “In the film we do critique the close-minded attitude that anyone of Middle Eastern decent must be a terrorist but the film’s intent is to show how that’s not the case. Rita Mahtoubian moved to America as a child and grew up American. It’s a subject that can be relatable not only for Americans but for all immigrants in any country. It’s all about not believing in stereotypes and actually seeing who people really are. The film is really romantic comedy about an FBI agent falling for the person he’s investigating. Most people found it to be heartwarming with a good message of how absurd it could be to judge someone solely on their family’s background and ethnicity.”
Brian and his production team came up with one very interesting approach which solved two hurdles for their film. He explains, “We shot “Rita” in Los Angeles as most of the script was written with specifically LA in mind. Early in development we had discussed the idea of shooting abroad as we had several scenes located in the Middle East. The creative way around this was when we decided to build miniatures and shoot all of those scenes in that style. Our main goal was to not sacrifice the story for any amount of money. We would often ask each other ‘How can we creatively get this same feeling that’s written in the script?’ Being able to shoot on a stage and creating the miniature sets gave us the capability of shooting a desert scene in the morning and then moving to steel mill only a few hours later.” Creative producing resulted in time and money saved, which could be channeled into other aspects of the film.
This production which has such an unusual approach to a timely situation, has been enormously accepted and appreciated by audiences. Brian feels that this validates his motivation to be involved in the core message of Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist. His role as producer necessitates his involvement from pre to post production, which means Mancini puts a lot of time, effort, and heart into the films he helps to create. He comments, “The grand consensus is that the film is well liked by the mass audiences. I feel that because people can relate to the characters, it gets them invested. The humor successfully releases the tension when needed and helps audiences stay inside this world that we created. I hope that people see this movie and take a moment to think about our overall message. The feedback we’ve been getting from the film is that people understand and enjoy the message. Additionally, they enjoy the choices in our visual storytelling. The miniatures successfully capture audience’s imagination and the ending when the Agent walks through the explosion site into a heart shaped hole creates a warm and fuzzy feeling.” While Brian Mancini has no aspirations to the stardom and celebrity that drives many, he is always striving for the films he takes part in and believes in making. It’s about both the story and the art of telling the story for this producer. He confesses that there are so many possible ways to portray these tales…and he is eager to experience as many as possible in his career.