My life was enriched just by having seen it. The Iran Job is as entertaining a documentary as I’ve seen, but because it is very politically aware it is also educational. American basketball player Kevin Sheppard accepts a job playing in Shizaz, Iran and finds himself the center of attention of fans, especially women. Of course, women of Iran currently live under an oppressive regime. One of the women’s minor perks is to have a segregated seating section for basketball games. Later on, their privilege to attend games at all is revoked by the new Islamic rule.
Did you just interject with a question? Yes, Iran has a professional basketball league. I didn’t know it either. Part of the unintended humor is that the indigenous players are just awful. With six months training, I could quit the movie entertainment biz and go find a job on one of their squads over there if I wanted to. They are supposedly paying big money to Kevin. He is open to the fact that he is in it for one year only, to take the money and run. What he didn’t expect was that he’d make friends.
The women are outspoken but only privately behind closed doors. Laws in Iran prohibit women from attending the company of an unmarried man so all is done secretively (the American equivalent is that in this country teenage boys sneak girls in and out of their windows). One of the women, Elaheh, has a detectable crush on Kevin. She is attractive, in that earthy Sophia Loren way. It would be a big deal in her life, a sexy memory, to touch his hand. I wondered if she would attempt more if Kevin was a single man. Yet this is an example of how strict and taboo the expression of love is in Iran.
Everybody cheers for Kevin, even though most residential civilians have never seen a black man. They all high-five him when Barrack Obama is elected. The landlord, who cannot speak English, forms a friendship with him, exemplified when he takes the day off of work to hunt down a Christmas tree Kevin has requested for the holidays. A holiday tree would remind him of home, and his Iranian friends understand that sympathetically.
A natural machismo, point-guard Kevin is appointed Team Captain for the A.S. Shizaz in the Iranian Super League. An early winning shot makes him a celebrity of the state. Yes, there is on-the-court action in the movie. Kevin pushes his underdog team to the top ranks of the league. He did not ask for a leadership role, but in the most humorous way, he finds himself running the team. Fellow teammates look to him for guidance before they do their coach. Off the court, people ask for his variety of expertise, his opinions, his American wisdom. I was completely absorbed by this documentary.
Yes, the fact that this film has “Iran” in the title, and that it is about Iran, and that it will have a small advertising budget, might keep you from seeing the film. It’s not going to be supremely popular, I’ll admit that. Even if you tell people about it, they might balk. But your life will be richer for having seen it. I find it on par with “A Separation,” the Oscar-winning foreign film last year. If you see both of them, you will see how they compliment and mirror each other quite touchingly.
Read Kevin Sheppard interview: click here.
94 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
DOCUMENTARY / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / FALL SCHOLASTICS
Film Cousins: “Hoop Dreams” (1994); “Baran” (2001, Iran); “The Song of Sparrows” (2008, Iran); “A Separation” (2011, Iran).