'The Iran Job': Basketball brings an American to Iran

The New York TimesFebruary 27, 2014 

Elaheh, left, befriends American Kevin Sheppard when he plays basketball in Iran.



    One World Film Festival: 'The Iran Job'


    No MPAA rating. Paladin. 1:30.

    When: 10 a.m. March 1

    Where: Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St.

    Admission: Free

    Learn more: (859) 266-6073, Owff-lex.org

As indicated by its title, The Iran Job is about a workplace: the Iranian Super League, which beckons Kevin Sheppard to play professional basketball in 2008, when he's greeted by ubiquitous "Down With U.S.A." graffiti.

Still, this observant 2012 documentary, being screened as part of the One World Film Festival, avoids pedagogy; it's not always artful, but it has a relaxed, light touch that never topples into pretension.

Sheppard is effusive and informal, comfortable enough in his skin to make few behavioral adjustments to his new culture while playing in Shiraz, more than 400 miles from Tehran. Many Iranians are drawn to him, and as we watch him struggle to take his team to the playoffs (it's the big game against Mahram!), he makes personal connections.

Among them are three women he meets through his physical therapy. Their constraints, and their liveliness, are the prisms through which the documentary reveals everyday Iran and a cultural point of view.

"As an African-American," the rarely reflective Sheppard says near the film's end, "I know what standing up for your rights is all about. And I know it can lead to something."

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