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November 1, 2023 1:21 pm

First Israeli-Iranian Film ‘Tatami’ Wins Two Awards at Tokyo International Film Festival


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A scene from “Tatami.” Photo: Venice Film Festival.

Tatami, the first feature film co-directed by Israeli and Iranian filmmakers, took home two awards at the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival, which concluded on Wednesday.

The film’s co-director and actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi won the Best Actress award, and the movie received the Special Jury Prize, which comes with a 500,000 yen (roughly $3,310) cash prize. The film was directed by Israeli filmmaker Guy Nattiv, in addition to Ebrahimi.

Tatami is about a female Iranian judoka who is forced by Iranian authorities to forfeit a match against an Israeli competitor at the Judo World Championships or be considered a traitor by her home county. US-born actress Arienne Mandi, who is Chilean and Iranian, plays the Iranian judoka named Leila, who must decide if she will listen to the ultimatum presented by Iran’s regime or continue competing in the championships for the gold medal. Ebrahimi plays Leila’s coach, Maryam, who tries to convince the athlete to listen to the Iranian authorities. Tatami a type of mat used during judo bouts.

The film made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September.

Iran and Israel have no diplomatic relations, and Iran does not recognize the Jewish state. The Islamic Republic also has a long-standing policy of not allowing its athletes to compete against opponents from Israel.

Nattiv said being presented with the awards at the Tokyo International Film Festival brings “a small light in the darkness we experience right now in the world” amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that invaded the Jewish state on Oct. 7 and massacred 1,400 people, mostly civilians.

“Precisely now that everything is burning and painful in all this darkness, we received the news from Tokyo that brought us, Jews and Iranian exiles, some light,” he reportedly said. “Thank you to the Tokyo Festival, the President of the Jury Wim Wenders and his team for being able to distinguish our little film amidst the world’s chaos, which tells about the struggle for humanity, freedom, and equality and is a tribute to the millions of women who fight every day for the freedom to live.”

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