Screening: Opponent (Motståndaren)
Sweden’s 2023 Oscar entry from Swedish-Iranian filmmaker Milad Alami is a bracing critique of refugee policies and their unintended effects, complicated by a family man’s entanglements with the men he wrestles with, both literally and figuratively.
As around them refugees settle into temporary housing in snow-covered northern Sweden—or get dragged out—Iman and his family try to stay strong. Encouraged to join the national wrestling team to improve his citizenship chances, Iman (Payman Maadi) loses himself in training camp preparations. Inundated with secreted, desperate phone calls and discovering that his old club from Iran will be at the training, he grows pale and distant, finding only brief respites when he is high at a party with eyesome teammate Thomas (Are We Lost Forever’s Björn Elgerd) or caught up in patriarchal fantasies of the well-off existence his family might one day lead. His wife, Maryam (Marall Nasiri), cannot comprehend the logic of their sacrifice, given his coldness towards her, and levels coded warnings about Iman getting “distracted.” Especially as Thomas grows visibly closer with Iman and wrestling becomes a battle of wills, Iman making opponents out of those he holds most dear.