Chances are if you have heard the name Iran as of late, the dialogue may have also included the words, nuclear deal. It is a commonality with portrayals of Iran that many stereotypes have arisen. It is these stereotypes that Iranian American comedian Maz Jobrani is trying to dispel with his new satirical film, Jimmy Vestvood : Amerikan Hero. Jobrani, who plays the titular character, Jimmy, produced and co-wrote the film, currently in select theaters nationwide.
The 44-year old Iranian American comic Jobrani is as well known in the Persian community as George Lopez is in the Hispanic community. His decade-plus long standup comedy has poked fun at stereotypes about Middle Easterners and Persian cultural nuances. His new film Jimmy Vestvood aims to dispel platitudinous misconceptions about Iranians to an even broader audience. The film’s objective was to make a crossover to non-Iranians. At a recent screening in Irvine, Jobrani said to a mostly Iranian American audience, “We wanted to push the boundaries a bit. If you enjoyed the film go and tell all your Iranian and non-Iranian friends to see it. We wanted to make this film for everybody.”
Jimmy Vestvood : Amerikan Hero opens with Jimmy winning the Green Card Lottery in Iran. After this fortuitous circumstance he plans to move to L.A. with his tough loving mother (Vida Ghahremani). He celebrates his Green Card lottery by waving an American flag in the streets of Tehran, merrily dancing and singing in Farsi with his neighbors, “ I am going to America.” The beginning sequence is an homage to Jobrani’s comedic emphasis to deconstruct the notion that Middle Easterners are too rigid or un-celebratory. Unbeknownst to Jimmy, the flag that he is joyously waving accidentally catches on fire. He and his friends put out the fire that has haphazardly engulfed the flag by aggressively stomping on it. Meanwhile, an observer nearby is filming the street celebration with his smartphone. He continues filming while the group puts out the fire. The footage finds its way to Youtube where a news broadcast shows Jimmy waving and stomping on a burning American flag. He is mistakenly labeled in the broadcast as a possible terrorist.
Upon arriving in the States and enduring an interrogation at the airport, Jimmy takes a job as a security guard at a local Persian grocery store. His lifelong dream, however, was becoming a private investigator. A fantasy conjured up by watching American movies in Iran where private investigators were the heroes. In L.A., Jimmy lives modestly with his mother, who he also supports. Shortly after settling in with his new job and apartment, Jimmy finds himself in the middle of turmoil. A scheming political type (John Heard) approaches Jimmy with an offer to become a private investigator. Jimmy is unaware of his potential new employer’s malicious intentions to use Jimmy as part of his politically charged plan. Just as his P.I. dreams start to come alive does Jimmy Vestvood’s adventures in America truly begin.
Jobrani describes Jimmy Vestvood : Amerikan Hero as a cross between Pink Panther and Borat. He calls the character, “A lovable, bumbling idiot.” Maz Jobrani has built a career explaining how Middle Easterners aren’t all serious and can take many jokes. In his film Jimmy Vestvood, he shows they can also give many.