NOW IN THEATERS! The exposure of the inequities between men’s and women’s sports rages on, and Sahar Mossayebi’s Platform adds much-needed fuel to the fire. The filmmaker tells the story of Shahrbanou, Elaheh, and Soheila Mansourian. The three sisters are training their way to the top, hoping to represent Iran at the world championships of Wushu. But, unfortunately, their training in this Chinese martial art akin to kickboxing comes out of pocket and holds little national acclaim.
Along with their drive to be athletically the best in the nation and world, the sisters also face societal pressures as they are women who are challenging gender stereotypes. Platform takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to tell the Mansourians’ story. The documentary opens with the sisters, along with several other women, carrying cinder blocks in preparation to build a wall before we see them begin their Rocky-esque training.
The eldest sister, Shahrbanou, is the most dominant fighter of the trio with her considerable height, longer legs, and fierce punches in her weight class, winning eight gold world championships thus far. Elaheh has more medal wins but comes behind Shahrbanou’s gold count. The youngest, Soheila, is up-and-coming with two wins in her lighter weight class.
“…three sisters are training their way to the top, hoping to represent Iran at the world championships of Wushu.”
Platform is less about athletics and more about the pressures the sisters face being women in a male-dominated society and sport. From the beginning, Shahrbanou points out that there is very little money available for women’s sports. They earn, maybe, a grand or two (USD) each year if they’re lucky and win, but the money dwindles to a few hundred on off years. Obviously, the men make much more and draw a larger fanbase.
To train and compete, the sisters wear Nike tracksuits along with their hijab. At first, their appearances are seen as disrespectful. We also meet Elaheh’s husband (boyfriend?). He is proud of Elaheh and wishes the best for her as his sports career ended short, but confesses the months of separation have him reconsidering their relationship.
Anyone familiar with the global gender-gap problem will find nothing surprising about the themes presented in Platform. However, where Mossayebi’s documentary sets itself apart from other similar stories is how he captures the drive and determination of the three sisters and their good luck and misfortune along the way. Most of the action comes in the third act with footage of Shahrbanou’s win at the 2015 Wushu championships in Indonesia.
The sisters are passionate about Wushu. It’s what drives them to the point of exhaustion and, in the case of Soheila, to the point of dehydration as she has an hour to lose 780 grams to reach her weight class. Competition is all they know, and setbacks and injuries during competition are not taken well. As unfair as that is, the state of women’s sport in Iran is somewhat refreshing to the corporatization, million-dollar inequities, and horrific abuse in U.S. women’s sports. Platform ably captures Shahrbanou, Elaheh, and Soheila Mansourian’s sheer determination to be the best and their inner drive to be the best.
"…sets itself apart from other similar stories..."