World Premiere Set For Zamir’s 98 Degrees West

Anthony Bourdain’s TV buddy Zamir Gotta‘s documentary about their friendship and America is premiering at the Buffalo International Film Fest next month. Adorably close to Zamir’s actual birthday.

The director and co-producer, Stephen R. Powell shared the good news on social media yesterday morning. Citing the timeline of its development—illustrating the noble efforts of both men, and their cracker jack team of friends, colleagues, and fans who saw it through to completion.1

98 Degrees West

Through the 98 Degrees West documentary, fans will get to know Zamir better as he gets to know his friend’s country better—and possibly, “a deeper understanding of his friend Tony,” as Powell puts it.

The documentary filmed in various locations across North America, and of course Zamir’s birthplace Russia.

  • TUSCARORA NATION, Nyučirhéʼę (Indian reservation in Niagara County, New York)

The title references the dividing line of longitude that runs through our countries (Zamir’s being Russia)—known as the 98th meridian.

98 degrees West longitude is the geographic center of the United States, the heart of the country that Anthony Bourdain called home. Seen through the eyes of Bourdain’s Russian friend and traveling companion, Zamir Gotta, this film takes a look at the America that embraced Bourdain, and pulls back the curtain to reveals stories that unite us in our common bonds.

I also venture to speculate that the title and the premise takes inspiration from the John Steinbeck book Travels with Charley: In Search of America, wherein which Steinbeck’s fictional character “reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and the unexpected kindness of strangers” (Goodreads). And no doubt, Bourdain himself inspired Zamir to undertake this venture.

Part 1 – Zamir at Home in Moscow, Heads West, to America

Filmed in his home in Moscow, Zamir knows he is no Anthony Bourdain, the 1,000-foot-tall author and TV personality; but he was Tony’s friend. Zamir loves the world Tony showed him, he wants to see more of it, this time on his own in honor of him.

After filming in Red Square where Boris Nemtsov, former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia was assassinated after having dinner with Bourdain and Zamir four years ago, Zamir travels to visit a cold-war Soviet Submarine in St. Petersburg. Zamir realizes this is like looking down the barrel of a gun aimed at

Leaving the Red, White and Blue flag of Mother Russia behind, he looks at the flip-side of mother Russia, roughly 98 Degrees West, which also salutes its own Red, White and Blue flag.

His first stop in America is on the East Coast, in Buffalo, New York. This was the location of the Rust Belt episode from the show “No Reservations” that he and Tony visited over a decade ago…

Part 2 – Americas’ Iron Curtain

In his search to understand America, Zamir travels to the Southern Border of the United States and Mexico to “The Wall.” South of Tucson and just north of the Mexican border Zamir meets up with well-off tech entrepreneur who has made his home caring for his disabled wife, recovering slowly from a devastating injury with the help of caregivers whose families live along the border wall in the town of Nogales. One city in two countries.

Growing up in the former Soviet Union Zamir has seen first hand what it is like to live in a country that is walled off and locked down. Now Americans have to cope with a new reality, a new enemy, one that is invisible and has changed the way we all live.

The COVID pandemic has also challenged American notions of freedom. America has to decide if they want their freedom or safety first. Zamir discovers this new America to meets how people that are adapting to a new way of life.

Part 3 – A New World Order

Zamir travels to a former American nuclear missile base, a vestige left over from the cold war which once targeted Zamir’s homeland. He reflects on a day and age from his childhood of unquestioned hatred and fear of the “enemy” in both countries. In a scene in this silo, Zamir reflects on the counterpart to this facility back in the Moscow of his youth, and what has ensued in the decades to remove that threat. But now new threats have emerged, not just a new pandemic virus, but one that is inside ourselves, the virus of idealism.

In the final segment of the Border Episode takes Zamir looks at how we are all living in America as we emerge from the shadows of COVID isolation and try to pick up the pieces of our ways of life. Zamir reveals the truth of how we feel about the juxtaposition of freedom and happiness in America.

Who Is This Documentary For?

Some will regard this documentary as profiteering and stretching what could be surmised as a thin relationship. I think some diehard Bourdain fans will regard it as completionistic, a nice final mint on their pillow, in their grieving for their favorite travel show host.

In short, I think this documentary will appeal to these niche audiences:

  1. Bourdain fans who never forgot Zamir Gotta.
  2. Bourdain fans who miss getting new episodes every Sunday.
  3. Bourdain devotees who don’t want to miss a chance at learning more about him.
  4. Indie documentary supporters who happen to be in Buffalo, NY.

98 Degrees West Synopsis:

Feeling lost and abandoned Zamir Gotta, a longtime friend of Anthony Bourdain goes in search of the America Tony knew. Bourdain knew America as a complex place. He knew there was no single statement that can tell us who we are. Instead, Bourdain preferred to show us tiny parts of this country.

In 2009, Tony brought his long time traveling companion Zamir Gotta to America so Zamir could see for himself how “f-ed up” this place was… the result? Zamir instantly fell in love.

The film, 98 Degrees West Zamir Discovers Bourdain’s America represents the approximate geographic center of the United States. This point represents the reciprocal of 98 Degrees East, the center of Russia.

Timeline Of 98 Degrees West

  • September 23, 2018 – Powell and Gotta first discuss project, at Colter Bay on Delware in Buffalo.

98 Degrees West – Zamir Discovers Bourdain’s America premieres Monday, October 9, 2023 at 5:00 PM (EST) at the North Park Theatre. Run time: 59 minutes.

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