Olympic Pin Trading: The Movie

(ATR) Visitors arriving in Vancouver aboard Air Canada flights can get a sneak peek at the competitive nature of the Olympics by watching one of the movies on the plane.

(ATR) Visitors arriving in Vancouver aboard Air Canada flights canget a sneak peek at the competitive nature of the Olympics by watchingone of the movies on the plane.

It's a documentary called "Pindemonium" that reveals the passion and the obsession of pin trading.

"I hope it gets them to trade a pin," Navid Khonsari, the producer and director of the film, tells Around the Rings. "Once they do it, they'll kind of get bitten and get into the hoopla. Pin trading is a huge part of the Olympic spirit."

Khonsari discovered pin collecting through his friend, Corey Wade, whose parents, Pete and Linda, are well-known in pin trading circles. He began filming just in time for the 2006 Olympics in Torino.

The film features six collectors from around the world who pursue pins even though in some cases it has jeopardized their marriages and has led other family members to doubt their sanity.

"My brother looks at me, 'What's wrong with you? You collect these pins, you're an idiot,'" Sid Marantz, a Los Angeles pin collector, says in the film. "My son-in-law said, 'You'd better get a very deep grave, because once you go, we're going to throw that (junk) in there with you.'"

The film has aired periodically on the Sundance Channel in the United States, and has been seen in China, Thailand, Israel, New Zealand and Japan. It's now available on DVD for $12.99 plus shipping by e-mailing info@insktories.com.

"We've created this timeless movie that celebrates a division of the Olympics that's always going to be there," Khonsari says.

IOC Wanted Too Much Money

But look closely at the movie and something is missing: the Olympic Rings.

"The IOC was a real pain in the butt to be honest with you," Khonsari says. "They wanted us to pay some ridiculous fee, $200,000, just to say 'Olympics'. Even with all those pins, there are no Olympic Rings at any point in that movie."

Filmmakers scanned the pins and removed the rings digitally.

Thanks to freedom of speech, participants in the film are allowed to say the word "Olympics," but it can't be written on screen. "When we introduced Torino, we called them the Winter Games," Khonsari says. "We went out of our way to make sure we weren't going to get in any issues with (the IOC)."

In Turin, Khonsari filmed in the sponsor village, but couldn't get access to the Olympic Village. "We were outside and the Italian police were all over us," he said. "We had some major issues just trying to shoot anywhere without having to deal with a lot of hassles."

The film shows no athletes or sports events.

Khonsari. who is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., also traveled to the annual Collector's Fair at the IOC Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, and to memorabilia shows in Atlanta, Norway and Los Angeles.

Getting the Word Out

"Pindemonium" cost about $150,000 to make and Khonsari says so far he's recouped about half of that. He hopes DVD sales will help.

He tried to make a deal with Coca-Cola to help distribute the film, but says, "everybody is so skeptical about someone giving them a free movie."

He also was disappointed that the film didn't get into any film festivals.

"We hit a climate where a lot of the documentaries coming out were about Darfur or the war in Iraq," Khonsari says.

He also tried to partner with major pin producers Trofe and Aminco, but the movie was too far outside the realmof what they do in producing pins, keychains, etc.

"I have faith with the DVD coming out and the next Olympics being in the UK, we're just going to keep on pushing along and getting the film into peoples' hands," Khonsari says.

Even if he doesn't recoup his money, he says it was worth it. He gained experience on documentaries and met his wife Bessie, also a filmmaker. She is co-producer of the movie.

They shot about 150 hours of footage over six or seven months, and interviewed about 30 collectors for hours. They zeroed in on the six they felt were most open, diverse and had compelling personal stories.

"I think there are a lot of people in this world who don't have something they're passionate about, which they love to the point of causing marital strife," Khonsari says. "In a way, that's quite beautiful that you do love something to that level."

Goodwill Gestures

He says he also wanted to show that pin trading demonstrates goodwill on several levels. "The political climate was always so unfavorable toward Americans," he says. "Most of these crowds that travel the distance to the Olympics are Americans. That's something that shouldn't be underestimated: how Americans go to foreign lands and reach out."

He made sure he had all of the featured collectors, even attendees at pin shows, sign releases.

"They were excited that this movie could spur on a new generation of pin collectors," Khonsari says. "That seems to be the main concern, where is this new blood going to come from?"

The hobby is expensive, with souvenir pins retailing for $8 Canadian ($7.44 U.S.) at Vancouver 2010 stores. Some hot pins can reach values of more than $300 during the Games, and on the eBay aftermarket, but then plunge in value later.

Who didn't want to be in the movie? Khonsari found a couple of guys who are known for making fake pins.

"They'd already signed a waiver, but they were like, 'You'd better not show us!'" Khonsari says.

He depicts them being confronted by police in Turin with a skull-and-crossbones pin hiding their faces.

Khonsari won't be in Vancouver because he'll be in Las Vegas and Mexico speaking on a couple of panels about the latest "Alan Wake" video game he directed. He also has directed the "Grand Theft Auto" video games and his latest documentary, "Pulling John," is about the world's greatest arm wrestler.

While filming "Pindemonium," Khonsari couldn't resist starting his own collection. "I'm a sucker for the Katie Couric bobbleheads," he says. "Now she's not doing the Today Show, they're a greater collectors' item." He's also a fan of jigsaw puzzle pins.

But his favorite pin is the "Donny and Marie" pin from the Salt Lake City Closing Ceremony. He traded for that pin with a member of the U.S. ski team in Turin.

Yet Khonsari promises he is not obsessive. "Maybe about making movies," he says. "About pins? Nah. In the entire Olympic field, I would not want to limit myself to pins."

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Written by Karen Rosen.

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