Iman and his family flee Iran and end up in a refugee housing unit in Northern Sweden. Iman maintains as family patriarch but he breaks his promise to his wife and joins a local wrestling club. Rumours spread, and Iman's fear and desperation begin to take a hold.
“I’m just waiting for that one day when everything will be normal again.”
Opponent is the International Feature submission for Sweden. After a fellow wrestling teammate starts a damaging rumour about Iman, he is forced to flee Iran immediately along with his wife, Maryam, and his two daughters. They end up in a small, cold Swedish town near the Finnish border. After two agonizing years of waiting on their asylum application, the family of four are constantly being shuffled from one refugee housing apartment to the next, while Iman works as a pizza delivery man to make ends meet.
When Maryam finds out that she’s pregnant with their third child, they hope that this will help them get residency in this new country. And to further help their application, a translator friend suggests that Iman should start competing again in wrestling for Sweden, after being part of the Iranian national team at the Rio Olympics. Maryam strongly opposes this decision, as wrestling is the reason why they had to flee Tehran, but nothing will stop him from re-joining the sport.
Much of Opponent plays out like a wrestling match, with the married couple grappling for an advantage, with often blocking and locking each other’s movements. Likewise, the push and pull within Iman and his family are shown as they slowly become accustomed to unfamiliar freedoms, like drinking at parties, smoking a joint, and getting lost on the dance floor. Life is different in Sweden and the jostling for acceptance of this new life, this new country, this new reality is always on the forefront of their minds.
And on top of that, the bureaucratic indifference that refugees face on a daily basis occupies the minds of those that have become a part of this system. They are often considered more like numbers than people. They are shuffled from place to place. They are “removed” once their application is denied. The distressing sight of families being taken away underscores the limbo all refugees face while they await their decision.
“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent we are still afraid, so it is better to speak. Iman’s biggest opponent is his silence.