LA Film Fest 2012 Review: THE IRAN JOB
THE IRAN JOB is a documentary by filmmakers Till Schauder and Sara Nodjoumi. It follows Kevin Sheppard, a basketball player from the Virgin Islands as he begins his one year contract playing for the Iranian Basketball Super League.
This is a fantastic movie and right off the bat, I want to encourage anyone, who has the chance, to go see it. Often, documentaries about the Middle East are challenging, non-inviting films that can be a chore to watch. They are heavy, both in emotion and in information. Even the most inspirational can also be major downers due to the nature of the subject matter. The Iran Job is nothing like that at all.
What Schauder and Nodjoumi do so brilliantly is blend two very different types of films together in an impressively balanced way. Since the movie is ostensibly about Kevin and basketball, the central plot is that of a sports film. Kevin's team is brand new to the league. They are the underdogs and thus, we root for them. We see the team develop, we see Kevin grow into his roll as the team captain and we see them work their way up from the lowest standings in the league. Some of the games build to great crescendos as his team takes the lead in the last seconds of a game. Hollywood couldn't plan it better.
But there is another movie here under the surface that focuses on what it's like to live life in Iran. Through Kevin's teammates and friends, we learn much about the culture, politics and struggles of the Iranian people. However, we see this all through our protagonist Kevin's eyes (and Kevin is one hell of a protagonist). Not only is he smart and insightful, but he is tremendously charismatic and funny. I would watch this film again in a heartbeat, just to get to hang out with him for another hour and a half. One of the best sequences is when he decides he needs a Christmas tree and enlists his building supervisor to help him find one. The super speaks little to no English and Kevin speaks little to no Farsi. It just so happens te word "Christmas" sounds a lot like the Farsi word for "raisin." Hilarity ensues.
At the end of the day, this film is both fun and enlightening. While Kevin is amazing, the true heroes of this story are three women that Kevin befriends. They risk everything (in the ultimate sense of the word) to put themselves on camera. They discuss their lives openly and this puts them at real risk, now that the film is out. At the Q and A after the first screening at The Los Angeles Film Festival, the director told us that the trailer made its way to Iran and was immediately branded the American Anti-Iran film. The movie was vilified as were those who cooperated in the making of it.
Schauder flew to Iran and personally showed it to these three women. (The women are at much more risk than the men involved, because of the nature of the government mandated chauvinistic practices of the country). Schauder told them that he would gladly do whatever they wanted him to do, to ensure their safety. He would blur their faces and change their voices if they wanted, or he would even go so far as to recut the movie, completely removing all traces of them. Each one said no. Leave it as it is. This is important and worth the extraordinary risk. I can't tell you how courageous they are or how important a movie like this is.
The Iran Job shows how good the people of Iran are. How passionate and how repressed. The Iranian government might deserve to be part of "The Axis of Evil" but it's people, by and large, surely do not.
This is a tiny film and needs all the help it can get. Check out the website, watch the trailer and then, well, the ball is in your court.
THE IRAN JOB made its world premiere as part of the Documentary Competition at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival