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Tatami is Historic Iranian-Israeli Film Collaboration


Tatami – promo pic

An Israeli man, Guy Nattiv, and an Iranian woman, Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, have made history by co-directing a movie together. “Tatami” tells the story of an Iranian Judo fighter who is ordered by her government to “throw” a fight at the Judo World Championships in order not to have to face an Israeli in the next round.

With her own and her family’s freedom at stake, Leila is faced with an impossible choice: comply with the Iranian regime as her coach Maryam implores her to do, or fight on, for the gold. The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

Talk about timely! It was just a few days ago that Iranian professional weightlifter Mostafa Rajaee was banned for life by his country from competing just because he shook hands with an Israeli competitor at the World Master Weightlifting Championships in Poland last week.

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After winning the silver medal, Rajaee shook hands with third place finisher Maksim Svirsky from Israel. Iran’s weightlifting federation called the handshake “unacceptable and unforgivable.”

Recently, Iranian women athletes have been sanctioned by their country because their religious head covering, known as a Hijab, came off during a competition or was not wrapped over enough of their heads. In Iran, all women must cover their heads in accordance with Muslim law.

So, Tatami is about many things at once. It is about the absurdity of such international feuds, the individual fighting back against a despotic regime, the plight of women living in a theocratic state and more.

The mere fact that the film was co-directed by an Israel and an Iranian is a testament to how much things have changed in recent years. Zar Amir-Ebrahimi is only able to make such films because she lives in exile in France.

Zar Amir Ebrahimi was born on July 9, 1981 in Tehran, Iran and was the first Iranian actress to win the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, winning in 2022 for her performance in Holy Spider. She was exiled from her homeland in 2008.

According to his IMDB bio, Guy Nattiv is an Academy Award winning filmmaker from Israel. His first short film in the United States, SKIN, won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, along with many festivals around the world United States, Best Live Action Short Film, France, 2019, Clermont-Ferrand, Audience Award, United States, 2018, HollyShorts FF, Best Short Film Grand Prize, France, 2019, ECU European Independent FF, Special Jury Award, United States, 2018, San Jose IShFF , Best Short Film. It was acquired by FOX Searchlight. The feature version, also entitled SKIN, stars Jamie Bell, Vera Farmiga and Danielle Macdonald.

Guy Nattiv lives in Los Angeles with his wife/producing partner Jaime Ray Newman, and their daughter, where they run New Native Pictures.

“It is a tremendous honor to be collaborating with these true creative forces of nature—Zar, Arienne, and Elham—bringing this important story to life. It’s more than a movie to us. It’s a creative statement to the world as thousands of innocent Iranian people are paying with their lives for freedom,” said Guy Nattiv.

“The story we’re telling in this film is the story of too many Iranian athletes who lost their lifetime opportunities, sometimes forced to leave their country and beloved ones because of the conflict between systems and governments. May this artistic and cinematographic collaboration with Guy be a tribute to them, beyond frenzies of blind hatred and mutual destruction,” said Zar Amir-Ebrahimi.

But don’t expect the making of Tatami to lead to a peace deal between Iran and Israel any time soon.



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