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Home Culture ‘Tatami’: sports drama and political thriller based on the Iranian dictatorship | Culture

‘Tatami’: sports drama and political thriller based on the Iranian dictatorship | Culture

by News Room
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Mohammad Rasoulof, an Iranian filmmaker who fled his country just a few weeks before his eight-year prison sentence was confirmed, appeared at the Cannes festival a few days ago with a film under his arm, The seed of the sacred fig, and ended up winning a special jury prize. Sentenced to eight years in prison, whippings and confiscation of his property, according to the sentence, for “collusion with the intention of committing crimes against the security of the country,” Rasoulof is by no means the only artist in danger who decides to leave behind his earth in search of physical and creative freedom.

In all likelihood, the leaders of the Iranian regime were nervous last week, awaiting a possible prize in the French competition for their condemned man, with the usual discredit for the Government. Some dictatorial machinations that the film manages to represent Tatami in an area that is initially distant, but similar in international significance: sport.

The situation described in this fiction co-produced between the US, the United Kingdom and Georgia, however ridiculous, is no less tragic. Judo World Championships held in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, shortly before the Tokyo Olympic Games. One of the favorites is an Iranian judoka who is passing through the qualifying rounds with resounding success. However, on the other side of the draw, an Israeli is also heading steadily towards the final. It is then that the leaders of the Iranian federation begin to pressure the athlete and her coach to fake an injury and withdraw before that fight that they want to avoid. A (possible) defeat against the Israeli would be a fatal dishonor. The orders come from above: from the supreme leader.

Arienne Mandi, in ‘Tatami’.

Thus, Tatami it merges well the sports drama with the thriller political, which increases in tone when the threats are made not only against the two athletes, but also against their families. The gradual increase in tension is achieved with successive phone calls from above and intimidating videos from Tehran related to their blood relatives. And, in the midst of all this, a young girl who does not give up her professional dreams with dignity, determination and ideals of freedom that have been a constant in many countries throughout the history of sports.

Film of obvious sociopolitical interest, which only in specific moments displays its activism in a somewhat elementary way, Tatamidespite its conventional black and white photography without too many nuances, is not devoid of quality in its staging, especially in the combats, shot with an agile rage in the look that fits perfectly with the judo and the political struggle, including a couple of surprising subjective shots with the camera rotating as if it were a body in the so-called technique of the Uchima.

By the way, the authorship of the film has been left for last, which also has an intrastory and rounds off its political activism with foundation: its directors, Guy Nattiv and Zar Amir-Ebrahimi are, respectively, Israeli and Iranian. Nattiv is the director of the recent Golda. And Amir-Ebrahimi, who makes her debut as a co-director, is an actress based in France (here she plays the coach, and she won the best actress award at Cannes for Holy Spider), who had to flee Iran in 2008 after an intimate video was disclosed without his consent. She faced a smear campaign that prevented her from acting, and she fled before the trial that sentenced her in absentia to 10 years in prison and 99 lashes with a leather belt. Definitely, like Rasoulof, Amir-Ebrahimi knows what he’s talking about.


Address: Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, Native Guy.

Interpreters: Jaime Ray Newman, Arienne Mandi, Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, Nadine Marshall.

Gender: drama. USA, 2023.

Duration: 105 minutes.

Premiere: may 31.

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