The Israeli and Iranian co-directors of the new movie “Tatami” told Reuters on Sunday that the production had to film secretly in the Republic of Georgia to avoid suspicion from Tehran.
Iranian Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Israeli Guy Nattiv are the first filmmakers from their respective countries to team up on a feature production.
“I knew there are many Iranians there, so we were trying to keep it calm and secret,” said Ebrahimi, who also stars in the film.
“We were undercover. We knew it was a dangerous thing,” Nattiv, whose film “Golda” is currently in theaters, told the news agency.
Israel and Iran are sworn enemies and the Iranian regime routinely threatens the Jewish state’s destruction while pursuing opportunities to kill Israelis at home and abroad.
The pair stayed in separate hotels, spoke English and kept quiet that they were filming the movie.
The sports drama, which debuted on Sunday at the Venice Film Festival, focuses on a female Iranian athlete (Arienne Mandi) and her coach (Ebrahimi) who travel to the Judo World Championship in Tbilisi, Georgia, only for the regime in Tehran to order her to fake an injury and forfeit the match rather than face an Israeli opponent.
It was inspired by a real-life incident in 2019 involving Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who said Iranian officials pressured him to withdraw from a competition in order to avoid fighting Israeli judoka Sagi Muki at the World Judo Championships in Tokyo.
Germany granted Mollaei refugee status and the International Judo Federation imposed a four-year ban on Iran. Mollaei and Muki became close friends and finally competed against each other last year at the Budapest Grand Slam, with Mollaei, an ethnic Azerbaijani, fighting under the Azerbaijani flag. The two men embraced after the fight.