“The Iron Sheik” And Other IFF Offerings

A documentary about American wrestling legend The Iron Sheik is just one of the films screened as part of this weekend’s Iranian Film Festival San Francisco (hereafter IFF). This year’s IFF is the eighth edition of the first independent (as in not associated with any government or religious organization) film festival outside Iran dedicated specifically to screening both features and shorts made by Iranians from around the world. From September 26 to September 27, 2015, fans of Iranian cinema can flock to the San Francisco Art Institute to see new films by both familiar directors (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Bahman Ghobadi) and rising filmmakers (Mahtab Mansour, Abolhassan Davoodi).

Here are some suggestions for what to catch at IFF 8:

Crazy Castle–This multiple award-winner at the Fajr Film Festival comes from director Abolhassan Davoodi. A meetup of members of an online community at a Tehran cafe goes badly awry. One girl’s urgent need for drugs sparks a complicated situation which winds up revealing the true character of the girl and the people helping her. (September 27 at 5:15 PM, Davoodi and actor Gohar Kheirandish in person)

The Iron Sheik–Khosrow Vaziri is best known to Americans under his wrestling stage name “The Iron Sheik.” A match with Hulk Hogan propelled The Iron Sheik to wrestling stardom. But Vaziri’s amazing life story also includes his stint with the Iranian army and being a bodyguard to the Shah of Iran. (September 26 at 1:00 PM)

I Want To Be A King–Abbas Barzegar was once a simple farmer who lived with his family near Shiraz, Iran. But after a couple of German tourists hype the modest fare Barzegar’s family shared with them as the best food in all of Iran, Barzegar abandoned farming for a new venture. He turned his farm into a successful tourist spot where guests can allegedly experience “the authentic Iran.” Barzegar’s household work like dogs to make the business a success. But their limits get reached when Barzegar wants to start an archaic nomadic tribe with himself as king. Director Mehdi Ganji chronicles Barzegar’s story. (September 26 at 3:15 PM)


The President–Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s new film is set in the Caucusus. A coup d’etat deposes the brutal President of an unnamed country. Separated from most of his family, he disguises himself as a wandering musician and treks across the countryside with his 5-year-old grandson. The President’s aim is to reach the safety of a waiting ship while evading the ongoing hunt for him. However, his incognito journey gives him a firsthand taste of the hardships that led his former subjects to universally loathe him. (September 27 at 7:30 PM)

Words With Gods–This IFF must-see is an international anthology film featuring nine different directors looking at the relationship between a particular culture and religion. Among the filmmakers featured are Amos Gitai (Israel), Mira Nair (India), and Bahman Ghobadi (Iran). Peter Gabriel wrote and performed the soundtrack. (September 26 at 9:30 PM)


All films screen at the San Francisco Art Institute (800 Chestnut Street, SF). For further information about this year’s IFF selections, go here.

About the Author

I’m a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film…but don’t tell anyone.

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