Director Till Schauder knew that he wanted to make a film about an American playing professional basketball in Iran: it just took him a while to find a person whose charisma would really resonate in a movie that resides between politics and sport.
Kevin Sheppard is that person. Throughout this documentary on Sheppard’s winter season 2008-9 with A.S. Shiraz in southern Iran, he carries these various representational burdens with grace and humour. Sheppard arrives just after Shiraz has made it into the Iranian Super League. He’s appointed captain to the much younger team, a role that he grows into with camaraderie and leadership.
But it’s his relationship with three Iranian women that becomes the film’s main pivot: as they come to know and trust him, he comes to understand their situation, and by extension, that of all Iranian women. By the time the Iranian presidential elections in June 2009 have erupted into violence – and the death of a female protester – Sheppard has completed a considerable learning curve.
Schauder uses some chronological licence to match the on-court drama with events going on outside; as a result, the apposition of the different spheres constituting Iranian society receives precisely the dynamic it deserves in this well-executed, thought-provoking alternative to Argo.
The Iran Job | Directed by Till Schauder (USA 2012), documentary with Kevin Sheppard. Starts February 21