‘The Iran Job,” a lively, engaging documentary directed by the German filmmaker Till Schauder, has two things going for it. One is a pretty irresistible premise: an American playing point guard for an Iranian professional basketball team. There are fish out of water – and then there’s Kevin Sheppard. Sheppard, the point guard, is the other thing going for it. He has an exuberant personality, curious mind, and engaging manner. If Michael Strahan ever leaves his morning gig with Kelly Ripa, Sheppard could step right in.
Twenty-nine at the start of the 2008-2009 season, Sheppard had spent much of his 20s as a hoop vagabond, playing in China, Brazil, Israel. “My first response when I heard about Iran was ‘Hell, no!’ ” he says. It’s not as if he has many other options, though. So Sheppard leaves behind his girlfriend in the US Virgin Islands (they stay in touch by Skype) and heads to Shiraz (like the wine), a city of almost 1.5 million in southwestern Iran. “God put something into my spirit,” Sheppard declares, “and said, ‘You need to go from the familiar and get into the unfamiliar.’”