Director Sahar Mosayebi’s “Platform” follows three Iranian sisters as they train to become wushu champions. The martial art is popular in Iran, and Iranian athletes have won gold medals at the World Wushu Championships in recent years (and a few athletes have received bans after testing positive for steroids, a topic “Platform” does not cover). Rather than focusing specifically on the practices of the International Wushu Federation, “Platform” is a tighter portrait of thirtysomething sisters Shahrnaboo, Soheila, and Elaheh Mansourian, who hail from the Iranian city Semirom. They’re all top-tier competitors at sanda, a full-contact combat sport that combines elements of boxing, wrestling, karate, and taekwondo.
The sisters, who often bicker and tease each other, are all driven by competitive ambition, but have different personalities. Shahrnaboo is sarcastic and outspoken, a daredevil who likes to ride motorcycles and ride horses—and is the only sister who is married. Soheila is quieter and more reserved, and slightly cowed by not having the same numerous successes as Shahrnaboo and Elaheh. And Elaheh has a chip on her shoulder, and a frustration with the limited opportunities available in Iran for female athletes. “Wushu is not known in Iran, and neither am I,” she says, and her bitterness is palpable. When “Platform” begins in the months before the 2015 World Wushu Championships, all the sisters have won gold medals or held world titles in their separate weight classes—and they’re also struggling with the everyday economic and social frustrations of living in heavily sanctioned Iran.
In Semirom, the women are well-known. They’re recognized and treated with respect by practically everyone: construction workers, store owners, and women in long black chadors, sharing the sidewalk with the sisters in their white, blue, and red track suits from the Iranian team. On a larger scale, though, the sisters, their fellow wushu practitioners, and their coaches say that they’re underpaid and undervalued. State TV doesn’t show their matches, and they’re not given as much attention as male athletes. Their annual salary for being part of a competitive team is usually only $700 U.S. dollars. With that small amount, the sisters support their entire families—a recurring scene is someone in the family going to one of the sisters and asking if there’s enough money to pay a certain bill or fund a specific expense—and inside and outside the home, they’re under an immense amount of pressure to provide, and to conform.
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