Earlier this month there was an interesting news tidbit as regards Iranian film: Netflix had chosen to distribute Wishbone, a new movie by accomplished director Ali Atshani, soon to be released in Iranian theaters. A romantic drama involving a married football (soccer) coach and his unresolved relationship with an ex-girlfriend, there remains very little reliable information in English online about Wishbone, aside from mention of its star, industry veteran Hosein Yari. Still, it was encouraging to hear that Netflix is seeking to increase its Iranian collection with cutting-edge content.
It’s only been two weeks since this announcement, but Atshani has managed to make the news again, this time appearing in press releases for upcoming film 1st Born. There are a few important distinctions to be made about this new project—not the least of which is the casting of American actor Val Kilmer in a leading role—but 1st Born is especially notable as the first ever, true co-production between Iran and America, utilizing cast and crew from both nations.
Atshani has technically collaborated with Americans before; both Edwin Avaness and Sam Khoze joined the director previously, co-producing his film Paradise last year, a comedy starring Javad Ezati which also includes a plot-point where its characters take a trip to Germany. However, the director is choosing to combine on-screen American and Iranian talent this time, in a powder-keg story about a married couple and their warring fathers, one of whom will be played by Kilmer. Apparently, these parental in-laws must find common ground in the wake of a complicated pregnancy, despite the fact that each are working politicians with strongly opposed opinions on one another’s countries of origin.
Atshani has directed a total of 15 films according to IMDB, although it was only last year with Paradise that he seems to have begun exploring these kinds of cross-cultural stories. With 1st Born being an historic project in film, one would hope that it also represents the beginning of a new political and artistic cooperation and dialogue between Iran and the United States. Even the aforementioned plot of the film itself looks to be a metaphorical allusion to this dynamic, and one wonders if this is all a deliberate component of Atshani’s vision as he breaks this new ground.
1st Born is currently in pre-production at this time, but we’ll report more information as this story develops.