Italy Celebrates International Women’s Day by Bowing Iranian-Israeli Thriller ‘Tatami’ Alongside Rerelease of Box Office Hit ‘There’s Still Tomorrow’

Italy, where debate over violence against women is currently raging, is celebrating International Women’s Day by becoming the first country to theatrically release “Tatami,” a female empowerment thriller about an Iranian judo fighter that made a splash in Venice and marks the first collaboration by Iranian and Israeli filmmakers.

Italy’s BIM Distribuzione is bowing “Tatami” – which is co-helmed by Iranian actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi (“Holy Spider) and Israeli director Guy Nattiv – on 90 local movie screens on Friday as an International Women’s Day special preview at a discounted €3.50 ($3.80) ticket price. The film will officially release locally on April 4.

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“Tatami” reconstructs the tale of a young judo champion named Leila, played by Arienne Mandi, who Iranian authorities wanted to force to withdraw from a competition in order to keep her from competing against an Israeli athlete.

In an interview with Variety, Ebrahimi, who also stars, said that depicting the characters’ desperate plight on and off the mat took a toll on both her and Mandi.

“It was intense,” she said. “But for women in Iran, that’s our life: every day is a fight.”

According to a new United Nations report issued on Friday, Iran is responsible for the “physical violence” that led to the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022 and sparked nationwide protests against the country’s mandatory headscarf. The report also notes that, in the ensuing Iranian uprising, female protesters have been specifically targeted and that crimes against humanity perpetrated by Iranian authorities against protesters include “murder; imprisonment; torture; rape and other forms of sexual violence; persecution; enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts.” These have been committed “as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population, namely women, girls and others expressing support for human rights,” the report states.

In Italy, the slaying late last year of 22-year-old university student Giulia Cecchettin, allegedly by her former boyfriend, has sparked outrage across the country where, on average, one woman is killed every three days, according to a report by the European Institute for Gender Equality. Another more recent report released on Thursday by Italy’s Interior Ministry said that in 2023, 120 women were murdered in Italy and over half of them were killed by their partners or ex-partners.

In a clear sign that gender-based violence is really resonating with Italian audiences, International Women’s Day is also seeing the local rerelease on more than 200 screens of “There’s Still Tomorrow,” the dramedy about the plight of an abused housewife in post-war Rome which is the directorial debut of popular Italian actor Paola Cortellesi. “There’s Still Tomorrow,” which was first released in October 2023, has scored a whopping more than $36 million via Vision Distribution, landing the country’s No. 1 spot last year and beating “Barbie.”

Interestingly, aside from some thematic affinities, both “Tatami” and “There’s Still Tomorrow” share the fact that they are both shot in black-and-white — an aspect that the “Tatami” directors told Variety reflected the current reality for Iranian women.

“Maybe one day, their life will be in color again,” Ebrahimi said.

Watch a clip from “Tatami” below.

Marta Balaga contributed to this report.

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