At a second of struggle and deep division within the Center East, a movie co-directed by an Israeli and an Iranian is already a victory in and of itself. However the gripping sports activities drama Tatami, which follows a feminine judo champ whose profession is severely jeopardized by Iran’s authorities throughout a global match, is greater than only a promising collaboration between two filmmakers hailing from opposing sides of a significant battle.
Set throughout one nail-biting day on the world championship in Tbilisi, Tatami — whose title refers back to the mat the place judoka fighters interact in fight — is each a riveting story of an athlete attempting to realize gold for the primary time, and a searing political thriller the place Iranian girls are subjected to persecution, intimidation and presumably kidnapping by the hands of their nation’s far-reaching authoritarian regime. Vibrantly helmed and carried out, with co-director and Cannes finest actress winner Zar Amir Ebrahimi (Holy Spider) enjoying one of many leads, the movie is a win each behind and in entrance of the digital camera.
The Backside Line
Gripping, in all senses of the time period.
Venue: Tokyo Worldwide Movie Competition (Competitors)
Forged: Arienne Mandi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Jaime Ray Newman, Ash Goldeh, Lir Katz, Ash Goldeh, Valeriu Andriuta
Administrators: Man Nattiv, Zar Amir Ebrahimi
Screenwriters: Man Nattiv, Elham Erfani
1 hour 45 minutes
Shot in stark black-and-white by DP Todd Martin (The Novice), who makes use of the Academy ratio to lend the drama a claustrophobic really feel, Tatami bears a number of the marks of traditional boxing flicks like Physique and Soul or The Set-Up, the place a proficient fighter is attacked by sinister forces exterior the ring whereas taking a pummeling inside it. Right here, these forces are the political operatives despatched to Tbilisi to stop nationwide champion Leila Hosseini (the spectacular Arienne Mandi, an American actress of Chilean and Iranian descent) from advancing too far in a match that would finish along with her preventing — and presumably dropping to — the reigning Israeli champ, Shani Lavi (Lir Katz).
As an alternative of throwing the combat for the mob, Hosseini is coerced to declare forfeit for the glory of Iran. This she refuses to take action, profitable one fight after one other, and thus deepening the stress on her coach, Maryam (Amir Ebrahimi), in addition to on her husband (Ash Goldeh) again dwelling. Her resolution transforms Tatami right into a riveting story of ladies versus males, athletes versus authorities brokers, and freedom versus oppression.
It’s additionally an engrossing sports activities flick in its personal proper, and one with a convincingly femme-centric standpoint. Leila is a bull within the ring, taking out opponents with spectacular physique slams (or no matter they’re referred to as in judo) that she appears to tug out of her hat. She’s additionally a loving mom and spouse — a undeniable fact that’s put to the check when the authorities begin harassing her household, pressuring her to surrender earlier than she reaches the final spherical.
Maryam is below the gun as nicely, each as Leila’s longtime coach and as a daughter whose father is shortly taken into custody, and presumably overwhelmed, in order that she’ll act on the regime’s behalf. The well-structured script (by co-director Man Nattiv and Elham Erfani) reveals that Maryam might herself have forfeited a match when she was on the prime of her profession, making her inside battle all of the extra nerve-wracking.
The movie’s pressure-cooker environment builds to a crescendo as Leila will get nearer to the ultimate, surviving a number of beatings on the mat whereas authorities thugs, in addition to the remainder of her group, tighten their grip round her. Dynamic modifying by Yuval Orr retains the motion on the transfer, chopping between a number of viewpoints — together with that of a involved match official, performed by Jaime Ray Newman — as Martin’s roving digital camera takes us out and in of the ring, with the majority of the film set in a single location.
In your typical combat flick, an underdog like Leila would wind up prevailing in opposition to all odds, profitable the title although her authorities does every thing it may to cease her. That the filmmakers opted for a special denouement is each a welcome twist and a significant one, underscoring the grueling political state of affairs each Leila and Maryam discover themselves in. In Tatami, victory is much less about getting the gold than about selecting whose aspect you’re on, even when it means dropping a lot else within the course of.