Actors: The Iron Sheik, Dwayne Johnson
Director: Igal Hecht
Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Dark Sky Films
DVD Release Date: March 1, 2016
Run Time: 96 minutes
I’m sure if you are a fan of WWE wrestling, especially of the iconic figure this film is based on, The Sheik will provide plenty of enjoyment. Personally, I prefer my soap opera with a lot less yelling and a lot better acting, but was still able to find some enjoyment in the character study at the center of this documentary. I may have been able to enjoy the human aspects of the story even more if the filmmakers didn’t allow themselves to seep into the narrative as giddy fans during the second half of the film. While I appreciate their passion, it did little to reassure me the filmmaking wasn’t affected by the filmmakers’ obvious bias.
Beginning as a fairly traditional biographical documentary, we are given insight into the childhood of Khosrow Ali Vaziri, the man who would eventually become known as ‘The Sheik.’ Born in
in 1942 and formerly an Olympic athlete and bodyguard for the Shah of Iran,
Vaziri was an unlikely candidate for celebrity in American “professional” wrestling,
until he discovered how to use his heritage to his advantage. In other words,
by playing up his Middle Eastern descent, Vaziri was able to tap into the
ignorant hatred and blatant racism of American wrestling fans. Or perhaps I am
being too harsh on Americans and too polarizing on the issue of minority
representation in the villains of the wrestling. Iran
Vaziri’s persona of The Iron Sheik was solidly in the category of ‘heel,’ the perfect bad guy for the whitest hero to build his career off of during the 1980s. Hulk Hogan’s popularity began with his scripted rivalry against The Sheik, with transparent messages about an entire culture just an unfortunate side effect. Somewhere along the way the persona seemed to become a part of Vaziri, until now it feels as though he is always performing as The Sheik, spouting out purposefully incendiary comments to retain whatever level of fame is possible.
This is the part of the documentary I found increasingly irritating, not to mention unfocused. The same guys responsible for this documentary participated in building The Sheik a social media presence, all but admitting to being the ones posting for him. They brought him back to minor celebrity by using his ability to be the bad guy, essentially just saying any comment that will get attention. I have no doubt that Vaziri had an incredible influence on the world of professional wrestling and his personal life is filled with enough tragedy and heartache for the parasitic tendencies of non-fiction filmmaking, but this film turns into a self-congratulatory mess when the filmmakers make themselves a part of the story.
The special features include only a trailer.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 3.5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10