The divine entity of your choosing's gift to lovers of good independent cinema everywhere Film Movement shows its usual perfect instincts both in picking "The Iran Job" for its international Film of the Month Club and in selecting March 4, 2014 to release the DVD of this 2012 documentary. Sports fan and every individual who is not residing in a cave knows that this is two weeks before the 2014 March Madness NCAA basketball tournament commences.
"Job" centers around American basketball player Kevin Sheppard moving to Iran for a year in 2008 to help turn around the last-ranked team in a league of 13 organizations. Although the premise seems like a set-up for a teen comedy, this documentary is a charming and witty study of Sheppard's new community and an informative look at the violent political turmoil that coincides with his adventure. It is much more "Northern Exposure" than "Funny Farm."
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Job" does a great job conveying the charm of Sheppard and the other awesome elements of the film while keeping spoilers to a minimum.
Sheppard is a perfect documentary subject in that he is engaging and funny without coming close to being overbearing; these traits help him quickly develop close friendships with his Siberian roomie/teammate and a trio of young modern Iranian women who (mostly) adhere to the repressive requirements imposed on women in the Islamic republic in which they reside.
Seeing these women scurry into the other room when someone arrives while they are merely visiting Sheppard and watching them resist removing their head scarves is both entertaining and sad. A scene that can be considered "riding in cars with boys" is particularly hilarious.
Sheppard additionally has awesome encounters with ordinary Iranians; a wild and crazy dancing worker at a nearby chicken take-out place is particularly entertaining.
Watching Sheppard interact with his mostly Iranian teammates and seeing those underdogs try to climb out of the basement in the ranking of their league during their own March Madness style tournament also makes for great cinema.
Even non-basketball fans will cheer on this group during their games. We also feel badly when the public scrutiny that is focused on Sheppard turns ugly, especially when it revolves around him literally kicking the bucket.
Director Till Schauder does equally well portraying the turbulent political climate during Sheppard's year abroad; these events include Iran expressing particularly strong animosity against Isreal and Iranians engaged in protests regarding a presidential election.
As successfully as Schauder tells the story of Sheppard, his 1995 German short "City Bomber," which is the monthly "bonus film" on the "Job" DVD, leaves that genuine star effort on the bench.
The highly symbolic 22-minute black-and-white "Bomber" starts out with shades of Fellini with a bizarre hair-raising (this will be funny after you see the film) segment with a little girl enjoying a park; we soon learn that the girl's father is an architect with shades of Howard Roark from the Ayn Rand novel "The Fountainhead" in that having his artistic vision stifled is driving him mad in a manner that leads to a protest straight out of Roark's playbook.
Saying much more about this genuine piece of art would ruin the impact of watching it; suffice it to say that Schauder stages an incredibly tense and twist-filled climax that should prompt the current crop of American action-adventure directors to re-enroll in film school.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Job" or "Bomber" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.