I Ran Iran: a feel-good film project foiled by politics

I’m wild about independent films with ultimately feel-good heart. Milk and Opium is a film that caught my attention in 2007. So did Binta’s Great Idea. Here’s another film project I’m excited about: I Ran Iran. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem, from what I’ve discovered, that the film has been completed. That’s too bad. The trailer and the story behind the film are intriguing. By the end of the trailer I was smiling and curious as to what happened to the project. Intrigue and smiles means two thumbs up by me.

Here’s the scoop. Tyler MacNiven who, along with his teammate B.J. Avril, won season 9 of the Amazing Race, set out to make I Ran Iran as a way to illustrate the warmth and hospitality of the Iranian people and the richness of their culture. To do so, MacNiven set out in 2006 with his best friend, Bobak Bakhtiari, an Iranian-American, to run the the 1000 miles or so between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Some of Bakhtiari’s family still live in Iran so family visits were also in order.

Unfortunately, the two were stopped from completing their journey a few days after it started because Iranian officials were concerned that the purpose of the run was political. It wasn’t, but from what I read in MacNiven’s explanation in this Lonely Planet article, he made an off-handed comment about Iran’s ability to pursue nuclear energy to a reporter. That comment snowballed into a political statement, something MacNiven was horrified by.

Instead of finishing their run, MacNiven and Bakhtiari were told to leave Iran. About a week after starting, lickety split, they were in Amsterdam with memories of Iran still floating through their heads as they tried to wrap their minds around the unexpected scenery change.

I’m hoping this project is able to be completed and am wondering where it now stands. Perhaps there is a funding issue. Perhaps there are political issues. From what MacNiven wrote, it’s too bad if there are political issues because from what they found, there is a warmth towards Americans by many Iranian people.

If MacNiven and Bakhtiari are unable to complete the film as they intended, I’m hoping it shows up in a larger venue in another film about the trials and tribulations of making a film in another country. I feel as if I’ve been engrossed in a book and have reached the end, but the last two chapters are missing and the author has disappeared.

Reading this story is a reminder that when traveling in another country, off-handed comments and actions can have unintended consequences. It’s unfortunate that exuberance and curiosity can sometimes kill the cat, or at least curtail its efforts.

Here’s the trailer.