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Witness

Iran's Sporting Dreamers

We follow three Iranian wrestlers as they fight for medals at the world youth tournament and aspire to Olympic glory.

Last updated: 21 Mar 2013 08:01
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Filmmaker: Nima Shayeghi

This film presents an intimate look at the lives and hopes of three Iranian teenagers whose collective dream for the future is to become world-class wrestlers. Every year, tens of thousand of boys from around the country try to get into the youth wrestling team, but only a handful succeed.

Iran's Sporting Dreamers follows these three boys who made it into the team as they train for, and participate in, the all-important World Youth Championships in Hungary. Success in championships like these, for a rare and lucky few, is a stepping stone to becoming an Olympic winner.

With unprecedented access to the Iranian national youth team, this film provides an extraordinary insight into the lives of some of the most marginalised Iranian families, who are rarely seen on screen.

Filmmakers view

By Nima Shayeghi

Various facets of what we Iranians believe to be and call our national identity, has always fascinated me. The stories of people who dedicate their whole lives preserving the so-called honour of these identities, have always carried a complex mix of questions for me.

In Iran, wrestling is a way of being and it bears with it an intricate range of Iran's ancient and religious cultural characteristics, which have been meticulously passed down from generation to generation, with passion, dedication and the interesting sense of duty that it has come to bear.

I see the mannerism and the aesthetics of the wrestler almost as the embodiment of the various facets of the Iranian identity draped in its past.

But in the contemporary society of Iran there seems to be a widening gap between the attitudes of the wrestlers and the position they hold in the society.

This is most strongly felt by the young wrestlers, as almost all come from deprived communities, and they are faced with the difficult decision whether to commit themselves to the love of wrestling or not. This is most baffling as there are hardly any financial gains in this lifelong commitment.

Over the course of making this film for Contra Image I have come to see this story as a doomed love story, where our characters realise from early on, the compromise between what they have come to love and the potential doomed future that awaits them. But they struggle and fight on for the sheer thrill of the honour and respect that a medal, or just simply being dubbed Pahlavan - the traditional name given to those who are both physically and spiritually of high calibre - can potentially bring for them, as fleeting as it may be.

Cinematically speaking I was looking for a visually expressive feel to the film, where we follow our characters through space, in their town, their gym, and at home, allowing the subtleties to emerge from the film's observational elements, and the story is felt through the lives of our protagonist.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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