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How far would you go to do what you love? For U.S. Virgin Islander Kevin Sheppard, a point guard who joined the Iranian basketball team A.S. Shiraz in 2008, the answer is, well, Iran. The Iran Job, the 2012 documentary about Sheppard’s time on the team, has its goofy moments: In one scene, the six-foot-tall ballplayer navigates the streets of Shiraz in search of a Christmas tree. Indeed, Sheppard delivers enough charm and swagger to make the film a charming comedy of errors, but it also delves deeper into the ethnic and social implications of his time there, which ended right before the massive 2009 protests that sprang up in opposition to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contested re-election. Director Till Schauder manages to intertwine the fish-out-of-water theme with the more complicated gender and social norms of the region, through scenes ranging from elderly Iranian shopkeepers exclaiming “I love all black people!” to Sheppard chatting with a group of 20-something women looking to implement real changes in their communities. A typical sports movie this is not, but like the Iranian fans Kevin quickly acquires, you may find yourself cheering, too.
The film screens at 7 p.m. tonight and repeats at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Freer Gallery of Art, Jefferson Dr. and 12th St. SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. asia.si.edu.