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article image‘The Sheik’ producers clothesline 'shocking' article

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 29, 2014 in Entertainment
Producers of ‘The Sheik’ respond to an unflattering article in the National Post that they suspect was a politically-motivated attempt to embarrass Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow.
Back when it was still known as the World Wrestling Federation, the Iron Sheik was one of its most contemptible curs. Fans of the entertainment show loved to hate the inflated character of the Iranian villain and his defeat at the hands of “real American hero” Hulk Hogan was a defining moment in professional wrestling. But once-Olympic hopeful Khosrow Vaziri was fighting a different battle outside the ring against drug addiction and family tragedy. The documentary, The Sheik, which had its world premiere at the Hot Docs Film Festival on the weekend, chronicles Vaziri’s past struggles, sometimes painful present and re-emergence as a popular icon in social media.
To show her support for the Canadian produced, homegrown project and Vaziri’s anti-drug message, Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow had lunch with the Iron Sheik while he was in town to promote the film. (Toronto mayor Rob Ford stood up the former wrestling star, risking retaliation in the form of a “camel-clutch.) Their meeting provided both personalities with excellent photo-ops and widespread media coverage, but one outlet covered the story from a different angle. The National Post’s Matt Gurney wrote a column titled, “Olivia Chow meets with, is endorsed by, ranting homophobe who encourages rape.”
While Chow delivered an apology for the lunch date via Twitter, the producers of the film had a different message for Gurney and the Post:
“As the producers of the film, The Sheik, we don’t know what is more shocking about the National Post’s Full Comment column of Monday April 28, 2014 (Olivia Chow meets with, is endorsed by, ranting homophobe who encourages rape) by Matt Gurney.
Is it:
(a) That the Post editorially does not understand the concepts of “character comedy,” “hyperbole” or “satire?”
Or:
(b) That a family newspaper would go trolling through Twitter to find profane comments. If this is indicative of the Post’s new editorial latitude, we can direct them to some provocative websites.
Actually, (a) isn’t so shocking, considering this happened in the same month that Stephen Colbert – a character – was widely accused of being a racist for sarcastically pretending to be a racist.
What we do know is we are not amused by an agenda-driven newspaper’s transparent attempt to use the Toronto-produced film about Khosrow Vaziri - an Iranian-refugee-turned-wrestling-character who fled the Shah’s secret police; as a political football to embarrass a Mayoral Candidate the paper does not editorially support. This is the only candidate that publically supported The Sheik’s world-premiere this past Saturday to support Vaziri’s anti-drug message.
Actually, we’re more than not amused about these radical statements and inability to differentiate between real-life and entertainment. Khosrow Vaziri’s story is one of survival – survival of drug addiction after the tragic murder of his daughter Marisa in 2003. The film documents how Vaziri leveraged social media for his unlikely and emotional comeback. Vaziri used Twitter to resurrect the Iron Sheik character and brand, and leverage it as a vehicle for humour. It’s sometimes very dark humour, but no more offensive to what you'd hear at any stand-up comedy club on a Friday night (perhaps you’d like to watch a Richard Pryor [another legend from the 80s] stand-up DVD and print the “bluest” material you hear…if that’s where you’re headed).
To reiterate, Khosrow Vaziri takes on the persona of the Iron Sheik for entertainment purposes as wrestling’s ultimate “heel.” For a credible news source to refer to Vaziri as a homophobe who encourages rape is unfortunate and reckless. The “Iron Sheik” humour is so hyperbolic that only the most irony-challenged, or politically motivated, could fail to see that he is actually mocking that which he is accused of being.”
More about The Sheik, Olivia chow, National post, Hot Docs Film Festival, Response
 
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