American Wrestler: The Wizard is a realistic sports movie on emigrants chasing the American dream

This school movie is all about how the teenager, Alidad Garahasnaloo Jahani, finds respect from his pals by winning the wrestling match for his school.

American Wrestler: The Wizard is a realistic sports movie on emigrants chasing the American dream

American Wrestler: The Wizard narrates the heart touching story of an teenager who settles in US, and struggles due to his indifferent American classmates. This school movie is all about how the teenager, Alidad Garahasnaloo Jahani, finds respect from his pals by winning the wrestling match for his school.

American Wrestler is a realistic portrayal of those migrant families chasing the American dream and their ordeals in the US. 

Jahani’s life undergoes a sea change when his pals discover his incredible sped and agility with which he pins down his opponents in the ring, earning him the respectful title, “wizard”.

He becomes the most popular lad in the school for his abilities — “faster than you can say his name,” as a local newspaper describes him to his town folks.

American Wrestler is partly inspired from real incidents, according to the filmmakers and based on the life of Iranian actor-producer Ali Afshar’s childhood memories of school life in East Petaluma, California.


The background of the movie is the hostile US-Iranian relations following the Iranian hostage crisis during the stormy decade of 1980. This feel-good also falls into the trap of Islamophobic movies by its portrayal of the foreigners.


Jahani’s character also reminds us of the easily identifiable foreigner as shown in “Win Win” and “The Hammer” earlier.

Jahani’s character also reminds us of the easily identifiable foreigner as shown in “Win Win” and “The Hammer” earlier. The Hammer narrated a similar story of teenager who emerges champion in a tournament for the deaf and focused his vulnerability as major theme, similar to the foreigner status of Jahani,which makes him isolated in the US.


The movie also shows Jahani’s romance with a woman played by Lia Marie Johnson and finally the emotional support he finds in his uncle, Hafez, who helps him to emerge the champion.

Probably, the only message this movie wanted to communicate is the advise Hafez gives to Jahani, “This country loves a winner. They don’t care how you become one”. 
Director: Alex Ranarivelo. Screenplay: Brian Rudnick; story: Ali Afshar. Camera (color, widescreen): Reuben Steinberg. Editor: Brett Hedlund.