BB contributor Ben Marks tells us of a new documentary film in production about UCLA's Quidditch team that Ben's son founded in 2009:
In May of 2011, when filmmaker Farzad Nikbakht Sangari was relatively early in his career as an M.F.A. candidate at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television, he noticed a co-ed group of students on the university's Intramural field, running around with short brooms between their legs. Hurling underinflated volley balls and dodge balls at each other, as well as through hula hoops on opposite ends of the field, it turned out they were playing Quidditch, the fictional game made famous in the Harry Potter books and movies.
"I stopped and looked," he recalls, "and I saw that a lot of other people were looking, too. That sort of caught my eye." Nikbakht Sangari immediately began documenting the students and their practice sessions, producing a short film for one of his classes. By fall, he was following the team obsessively, and did so all the way to the 2011 Quidditch World Cup in New York City. One-hundred-and-seven hours of footage and two years later, a Kickstarter for "Mudbloods," his feature-length documentary about the team and sport (produced by newly minted UCLA grad Eric Martin) has been launched, featuring a funny, heart-stopping trailer that captures the quirky spirit and full-contact action of the game.
Though initially drawn to his subject for the range of responses it elicited from bystanders, Nikbakht Sangari soon realized that there was something deeper going on here. "When I was growing up in Iran," he says, "I fell in love with reading and books. I loved the idea that these players had taken something that came out of a novel and were doing something positive and creative with it, making fiction tangible and real."
Nikbakht Sangari also loved the idea that the co-ed group of students, who were definitely athletic but would probably not have made the cut on UCLA's prime-time basketball or football squads, had created a vehicle that gave them the sense of camaraderie that comes from being on a team, as well as a way to represent their community and school. "They did all this themselves," he says. "They didn't have to be on one of the school's established teams to enjoy the benefits of the camaraderie you get when playing sports. They made it happen on their own terms."
With or without the Kickstarter funds, the plan is to finish the post-production by the end of the year and submit the film to festivals in the coming months. In the meantime, Nikbakht Sangari is grateful he wandered by those kids running around with brooms between their legs more than two years ago. "I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time," he says, "to meet a bunch people who were just really interesting characters—funny, smart, creative, self-aware, self-deprecating. It also looked like they were just having a great time."