Although it presents itself as merely the story of a professional basketball player named Kevin Sheppard, who, never quite making it to the NBA, has spent his career playing in lesser leagues overseas, The Iran Job ends up being quite a bit more: an underdog sports story, a fish-out-of-water tale, and an outsider’s perspective on Iran’s almost-revolution of early 2009. “I try to stay away from politics—as far as possible,” the genial baller says early on as a clear (and intelligent) defense mechanism, but politics doesn’t stay away from him: His time in Iran overlaps not only with its failed uprising but also the election of President Obama back home. That said, the film could hardly be described as anti-Iran. Sheppard—and, just as importantly, director Till Schauder—never fails to distinguish between the regime and its people, and in fact makes friends with nearly everyone he meets. By far the most poignant development is his burgeoning friendship with three women who, very much at their own peril, break several laws by engaging in such radical activities as spending time in a man’s apartment and speaking openly about their subordinated status in Iran. (The contemporaneous death of Neda Agha-Soltan only adds to the palpable unease of these scenes.) The trio is both modest and moving, which is to say they personify The Iran Job‘s best traits.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 10, 2012