Basketball Diplomacy in Iran

Basketball Diplomacy in Iran

Tensions between Iran and the US were intensifying in 2008 when American basketball player Kevin Sheppard went to play for the Iranian league. A German filmmaker has brought his unusual story to the cinema. For professional basketball player Kevin Sheppard, the thought of going to play for the Iranian Super League was not exactly appealing.

Basketball Diplomacy in Iran

When the offer came, his first reaction was to turn it down. But then he changed his mind and decided to go for it. In 2008, he entered what politically speaking was "hostile territory" and was recruited by the Super League club A.S. Shiraz. Schauder searched high and low before he found Sheppard Sheppard, who was born in the US Virgin Islands, quickly became a superstar in the Iranian league. At the same time, he was entering a world that was completely foreign to him.

Regular discussions with a group of three young, educated Iranian women helped him adjust and understand his new home, but also share his own opinions. Sheppard's apartment became an oasis where they could openly talk about politics, gender roles, love, and sex. This week, Sheppard's story has come to German cinemas in Till Schauder's film "The Iran Job," which premiered last summer at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Filmmaker Schauder is a basketball fan himself, and is married to an American with Iranian roots, so the story was close to his heart from the beginning.

In 2008 he first learned that a handful of American basketball players were active in the Iranian Super League. "When I heard that Americans were playing such an American sport in Iran, I immediately thought of the so-called ping-pong diplomacy of the 1970s," Schauder said. Chinese and American table tennis players played an important role in improving political ties between the two countries in the 1970s.

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