'Boys with Broken Ears'

"Boys with Broken Ears" follows young Iranian wrestlers as they prepare for the junior world championships.

More than 100 documentaries from countries around the world will screen from Friday, Feb. 5, to Monday, Feb. 16, at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, held in four venues around downtown Missoula.

For a full schedule and information about individual passes, go to bigskyfilmfest.org.

Today, the Entertainer features the festival's two retrospective filmmakers, whose works will be screened at the festival in addition to live performances from the artists themselves.

The festival has numerous threads this year – categories that help viewers narrow down the myriad offerings into subject areas they might be interested in.

"Schoolhouse Docs" are after-school, family-oriented pictures for children. "Sights and Sounds" encompasses movies about visual art, music and culture.

Watch the daily Missoulian and Missoulian.com/entertainment throughout the festival for reviews of documentaries and other coverage.

Today, the Missoulian looks at "Boys with Broken Ears," from the festival's Feature Competition.



'Boys With Broken Ears'

Nima Shayeghi, 2014, Iran, 78 min.

Saturday, Feb. 7: 10:15 a.m., Crystal Theater, 515 S. Higgins Ave.

Sunday, Feb. 8: 7 p.m., Crystal Theater, 515 S. Higgins Ave.


During a junior world championship tournament, a wrestler's future will be decided by a match he observes from the sidelines.

Depending on the outcome, he may have to face a wrestler from Israel. If that happens, he will be forced to forfeit.

Iranian wrestlers like Peyman are forbidden by their government from wrestling against Israel.

That's one of the few moments that political and international events or traditional sports drama enter into Nima Shaybeghi's excellent documentary, "Boys With Broken Ears."

Instead, the award-winning filmmaker tracks a group of young wrestlers as they prepare for the tournament and potential glory.

Wrestling, the oldest sport in the world, remains Iran's traditional sport – the country won three gold medals, two silvers and one bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.

However, it lacks any monetary reward or much state support.

The underprivileged subjects of the film are betting their future on wrestling, while also tacitly acknowledging the sport has no real future to offer.

At one training facility, a wrestler shows the crumpled-up wall poster of past junior championships and lists their dismal present prospects. (His province, he says, creates and destroys champions.)

The coaches, too, go for broke on their love of the sport. One is a cab driver; another works a corner stand and confesses that he lives with and is supported by his parents.

Shaybeghi and his crew take occasional breaks from the training camps, which are decorated with slogans such as "joking is not allowed." They visit the boys' homes, often in impoverished areas such as Izeh province. Massoud, who is one of nine children, recalls times in his family's life when wrestling shoes were all he could hope for – a uniform was too expensive.

The documentary succeeds through Shayeghi's approach. He doesn't use a narrator, and instead immerses the viewer in the boys' perspective. Handheld cameras follow them through their training, from the early morning jogs, to the drills, till they collapse post-match. The sparse guitar arpeggios in Kieron Maguire's score come to the fore during interludes instead of trying to create false drama.

Its arc picks up considerably as they head to Europe for the championships – where they'll reach permanent glory, perhaps on a crumpled poster, or be sidelined forever.

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