The Iran Job

Franco Nero is Space Jesus in THE VISITOR

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Visitor John Huston and Jesus Christ (Franco Nero) are in a never-ending war with Satan, and their latest battleground is Atlanta, GA, where the soul of a child holds the key to saving the universe. Probably. Lance Henriksen, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, and Sam Peckinpah join in the fun as Huston struggles to stop the girl’s descent into evil and tendency towards causing bodily harm. It’s hardly news to say that this thirty four year old movie is a mental fingerbang that bends genres and somehow teases both brilliance and stupidity, but I’m saying it anyway. Both highly derivative and wholly original, the film cherry picks elements from The Omen, The Fury, Phantasm, and more, and then swirls them together in a psychedelic mélange of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and pure nuttiness as it tells the story of good and evil battling over a young girl’s potty-mouthed soul. Drafthouse Films brings this gem to HD for the first time, and while the extras are unfortunately scarce the film alone is enough to warrant a purchase. Read my full review. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer, booklet]

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Documentaries are tricky beasts – while true stories come with their very own special cinematic weight (especially the ones that would be deemed “too fake” or “too strange” in a narrative form, such as something like Bart Layton’s tremendous The Imposter), it’s often the very subjects of compelling stories that derail their respective films excitement or cohesion. Not everyone has the spark or charm to light up a big screen, no matter how interesting their real life experiences might be. A good story isn’t the only thing that a documentary needs – they also need a good subject. Fortunately for Till Schauder and his The Iran Job, the filmmaker has Kevin Sheppard, one of the most instantly likable and effortlessly charismatic documentary subjects to hit the genre in quite some time. Schauder and his producer (and wife) Sara Nodjoumi conceived of the basic subject matter of The Iran Job before they found Sheppard – they wanted to use the experience of an American basketball player competing in Iran and for an Iranian team as a non-political entry point in shedding light on the embattled country. The pair searched for months and were almost ready to scrap the project when they found Sheppard, and how very lucky for them that they did, because it’s not only Sheppard’s personality that drives the emotion of the film, it’s also one of the major factors in The Iran Job‘s unexpected and surprisingly critical secondary storyline.

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Much like another LAFF film we profiled earlier this week (that would be Sun Kissed), Til Schauder‘s The Iran Job is, on the surface, a story focused on a singular personal story that grows and changes into a film with national (and even global) repercussions. The film centers on American basketball player Kevin Sheppard, an endlessly charming guy who makes the somewhat offbeat and possibly dangerous decision to accept a gig playing ball in Iran. Sheppard is pleasantly surprised to find that his worst fears were unfounded – he’s welcomed to the country and the sport, and he ends up forming some tight bonds with some most unexpected new pals. But despite the beauty that Sheppard finds in Iran, it is still a country in crisis and a people on the edge, and The Iran Job also documents the uprising and suppression of the Green Movement. And though that certainly sounds like heavy stuff, what this first trailer for The Iran Job shows us is a lively, energetic, and rousing glimpse at a film that could end up being one of the festival’s biggest crowd-pleasers. Is it the human drama, the unexpected friendships, or the awesome Iranian rap and hip-hop playing over the action that look and sound so good? It just might be all of it. Check out the trailer for The Iran Job after the break, along with screening information for the film, which will premiere at LAFF this week.

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