Tatami (2023) | Venice Film Festival | Horizons 2023

September 2nd, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Guy Nattiv, Zar Amir Ebrahimi | Docudrama, 105′

Making history as the first feature to be directed by an Iranian, who also stars, and an Israeli Tatami is an edgy addition to the female sports sub-genre bringing us ringside into the competitive world of the Women’s Judo Championships in a stylish black and white thriller.

Sporting competitions – both on the screen and in real life – seem to be fraught with difficulties for women, who are more likely to find themselves at the centre of sexual controversy, either in the form of unwelcome advances, as in the recent Spanish football debacle, or, as in action dramas Slalom and Power Alley where the main characters experience unexpected biological or erotic challenges that threaten to destabilise their performance or sporting prowess.

The focus here is political: Iranian judoka Leila (Arienne Mandi) and her coach Maryam (Cannes Best actress winner Ebrahimi) will find themselves put to the test when they arrive for the competition all shrouded in hijabs, which they will also wear for the entire contest. The action spikes as the competition is in full swing. Leila is suddenly ordered to fake an injury or face being branded a traitor of the Islamic Republic, along with her coach.

With her own and her family‚Äôs freedom at stake, Leila must make an impossible decision: comply with the Iranian regime as her coach Maryam implores her to do, or fight on and go for the country’s first gold medal.

This is an intelligent and striking action thriller that once again highlights a repressive religious regime that particularly punishes women. Co-written by Nattiv and Elham Erfani, who also takes up the role of assistant coach to the women’s team, Tatami is a strong contender competing for the Horizons award at this year’s 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival. MT


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