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Kick in Iran -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- The subject may be novel, but few will find it worth the running time in "Kick in Iran," a thin doc about the first Iranian woman to qualify for the Olympic games. Fest programmers may take interest for diversity's sake, but much life beyond that is unlikely.

Playing off the obscure song "Big in Japan," the pic's title seems chosen like much of the footage here: nothing better presented itself.

While Western viewers may appreciate seeing bits of daily life in a society they know little about, the doc isn't well suited by the verite approach, and might have benefited from some straightforward interviews and expository material.

Sara Khoshjamal-Fekri, a slender young woman with a lovely smile and a mean battle cry, is the star of Iran's Taekwondo team, and the doc begins with the news of her Olympic qualification. Filmmaker Fatima Geza Abdollahyan then follows the athlete around as the games approach, occasionally noting the public's reaction -- a religious figure calls her entry into the Games "a sin ... prostitution and the beginning of fornication" -- while seeing how life differs for female Iranian athletes and their more celebrated male counterparts.

Very minor drama crops up when an injury puts Sara's training on hold, forcing her to watch teammates steal the spotlight briefly. But this setback is as under-dramatized as the broader cultural conflicts on tap -- and with footage of the fighter's actual bouts amounting to only a couple of minutes, "Kick in Iran" lacks action on both the physical and narrative fronts.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (No distributor)

Production company: Brave New Work Film Productions GmbH
Director: Fatima Geza Abdollahyan
Screenwriter: Fatima Geza Abdollahyan
Producers: Mohammad Farokhmanesh, Frank Geiger, Armin Hofmann
Director of photography: Jakobine Motz
Music: Saam Schlamminger
Editor: Katja Hahn
Sales agent: Telepool and Brave New Works
No MPAA rating, 81 minutes