One of the many things that I love about basketball is its global nature, providing a meeting point for numerous cultures. Outside of international tournaments, the most common gem thrown into the global melting pot is the American import in domestic leagues around the world.
You know the drill: there are a semi-set of professional basketball players in the USA who are not fortunate/skilled enough to find a place in the NBA, but are still of sufficient talent to offer them a paying basketball job, abroad.
Quite often, these players will seek a country out that offers as many of the comforts of home as possible: the English language, a calm political environment, other Americans who can attest to its conditions and a league of sufficient standard to get noticed for that elusive call-up to the NBA. Some players however, take a different route and follow an alternative, less paved path.
Kevin Sheppard is one such player.
Sheppard is an American who has taken up a contract to play professional basketball in Iran. The 6’0″ point guard, from the United States Virgin Islands, initially entered the country as an import for Azad University Tehran BC. He then went on to sign with A.S. Shiraz, another Iranian team.
Obviously, this was a gutsy move for an American, moving to a country that so many of his countrymen fear as part of the “Axis of Evil” and view as a complete polar opposite to their own country. And this is where documentary makers Till Schauder and Sara Nodjoumi step into the story.
The husband-and-wife duo sought an American playing in the Iranian Basketball Super League, to film and tell the story of an import assimilating in Iran. The resulting documentary looks incredibly interesting as a study on cross-cultural mingling, combined with a basketball back-story.
As you will see in the trailer for it below, Sheppard comes across three Iranian women who give him an insight into their culture and the way in which women interact with and are impacted by Iranian society.
The team is looking for funding to get the film off the ground and have a kickstarter funding page, which is currently targeting $100k. There are approximately 19 hours to go on this goal, if you feel like contributing. There are various rewards on offer for those that donate at different levels.
There is an interesting article here on the back story to the film. It is due for an April 2012 release.
(Thanks to Chris de Jonge for pointing out this link to me)