BNH Pick: ‘The Iran Job’ Bridging the Cultural Divide Through Basketball

The Iran Job film poster starring Kevin Sheppard
American basketball star Kevin Sheppard plays basketball in Iran

One of the buzziest films to emerge from the recent L.A. Film Festival is The Iran Job, which follows the controversial decision by professional sports journeyman, Kevin Sheppard, an Americanto play professional basketball in the city of Shiraz, Iran, a move that carried no small amount of risk.

CLICK HERE for Brave New Hollywood’s interview with Sheppard and The Iran Job director Till Schauder.

The director’s interest in the subject was sparked by a 2007 article about American athletes who chose to play for Iran’s Super League. “This was a time when [the U.S.] were in Iraq, fighting, and it looked like Iran was going to be next,” Schauder recalls. “I was right away inspired by this story. I figured it’s a great opportunity to tell a story about bringing people together through sports.”

“I had to be the captain of a new team, new guys, and I had to take them to the playoffs,” says Sheppard about the intimidating gig. “That was the original goal and obviously if I didn’t make it, I’d probably get cut and sent right back home.”

Banner for 'The Iran Job' documentary opening in Los Angeles theaters
THE IRAN JOB documentary produced by Sara Nodjumi opens in L.A. this weekend.

Despite a fascinating subject, Schauder’s initial efforts to find an athlete to serve as the center of the film fell short. Some of the players were reluctant to talk because they had suffered repercussions back in the United States for working in Iran. Schauder was on the verge of giving up when his wife and co-producer, Sara Nodjoumi, located Sheppard.

“Within 30 seconds” of their initial meeting, Schauder knew he’d found his star. He filmed with only a tiny camera and microphone, plus a few bits of equipment rented locally. On his last visit, when he was set to film the playoffs, a centerpiece of the film, he was detained by authorities.

Despite the project’s many pitfalls, Schauder is justly proud of the final product. “It shows Iranians as regular people,” he says. “The point is to try as hard as humanly possible to build a relationship” between Americans and Iranian citizens, among whom polls show a consistently high level of respect for their neighbors in the United States.

Read our movie review of THE IRAN JOB. CLICK HERE

The movie opens on limited screens in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 2012

CLICK HERE for The Iran Job official website.

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