Born 1976 in Tehran, Ayat Najafi has studied set design in the University of Tehran. In 2003 he established the “Arta Atelier”, focusing on interdisciplinary, multimedia approach to theatre, as well as experimental short and documentary film, whose subject matter dealt primarily with behaviour in Tehran, and the city of Tehran itself as a concept. Ayat had participated in “Shoot Goals, Shoot Movies” in Berlinale Talent Campus, 2005, with his short film, “Move it”. His first feature documentary “Football Under Cover” co-directed with David Assmann will be released to theaters on April 10th in Germany.
Football Under Cover happens in Tehran in April 2006. When The first official friendly match takes place between the Iranian women’s football team and a local Berlin girls’ team, in front of more than 1000 cheering female fans. It has taken a year’s hard work on the parts of both teams of young women to make this happen. But now, after overcoming numerous obstacles, they are really playing. And these 90 minutes are about more than just a football game. Both the desire for self-determination and equality are being expressed here and it is clear: change is possible.
Shohreh Jandaghian: Football Under Cover won two prizes in Berlin film festival, The TEDDY for the Best Documentary Film and VOLKSWAGEN Audience Award. Please tell in your own words what the movie is about?
Ayat Najafi: It’s about how female football establishes a cultural dialogue between girls in Berlin and Tehran and presents the power of their dreams.
SJ: I know you went through some tough times during shooting in Iran. What were the most challenging obstacles you’ve faced?
AN: Well, we had two different battles. First of all, making a film in Iran is generally very hard. The bureaucracy kills you! And in our case it was even harder, because there was no independent co-production since then. There is a film organization, named Farabi, which is supposed to take care of these kinds of projects and there is also a chance to do the film unofficially with no permission. We wanted to be extremely official to face no trouble and also keep independent. The second series of problems goes to the political position of female football in Iran. All feminine activities, which may cross the red-lines considered for women are still a taboo for the politicians. In short, to find footballers out of their camp and follow them through their private lives, to film girls playing football, and to convince the authorities to let the match between the Iranian women’s football team and the Berlin girls’ squad happen were the obstacles.
SJ: You said in an interview, the film will not be publicly shown in Iran. Could you explain more about it?
AN: Exactly, you can easily put it in the second package! I mean, however, there is female football in Iran, but it doesn’t mean that the authorities like it or want it to go on. There is female football, because girls have fought for it for a long time and gave no chance to be ignored. So the authorities let it take place, but since they don’t like it, they don’t want to have anything come out of it, such as advertisements, pictures and film. As soon as they exported the shooting promotion, they informed us that there is no chance for us to present it inside Iran.
Shohreh – Football Under Cover is a sports film but in the same time has political messages. Would you like to talk about those messages?
Ayat – I don’t take it as a sport film, for me it is a film about the power of people, their dreams and happiness. Sport works like a virtual window to enter the real world of girls in two different cultures. I don’t also take it political, but in Iran even drinking a glass of water is political! So showing girls fighting against limitations can be extremely political!
SJ: What was your relationship like with your Co-director David Assmann?
AN: Like the message of the film: a tolerant, respectful dialogue between us made all the problems easier and settled them down.
SJ: Will the film run in U.S. festivals?
AN: For the moment we have an invitation from Tribeca Film Festival. Otherwise the film will be shown at Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival and “Hot Docs” in Canada.
FOOTBALL UNDER COVER
Flying Moon Filmproduktion – 2008
Directors: Ayat Najafi, David Assmann
Producers: Patrick Merkle, Helge Albers, Roshanak Behesht Nedjad
Directors of photography: Anne Misselwitz, Niclas Reed Middleton
Music: Niko Schabel
Co-producers: Marlene Assmann, Corinna Assmann
Editor: Sylke Rohrlach
Running time – 85 minutes