No One Knows About Persian Cats (12A)
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Time Out says
Tue Mar 23 2010The bands in Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi’s deceptively ramshackle snapshot of Tehran’s underground music scene joke about the blood-drinking and devil worship of which they’re often accused. Which is funny, because these Converse kids look like they were raised on a steady diet of Dave Eggers and Devendra Banhart, not Satan and haemoglobin. ‘Persian Cats’ is not a documentary but Ghobadi has said the script is 90 per cent real life and his actor/musicians seem pretty much to be playing themselves. Among them are Ashkan (Ashkan Koshanejad) and Negar (Negar Shaghaghi), a couple just out of prison and putting together an indie band to take to London.
All non-religious music is illegal in Iran, so it’s a crepuscular world of basement cellars into which the jittery camera follows them. Negar and Ashkan hook up with Nader, a wheeler-dealer (played hilariously Hamed Behdad), who promises to procure black market passports. He also takes them – and us – on a tour of Tehran’s musicians, from Farsi rappers to traditional vocalists, to find band mates. There are some brilliantly funny scenes: a farmer moans that the metal band practising in a cowshed is putting his heifers off milking. There are some lovely murmurs too of the graceful expressiveness for which Ghobadi (‘Turtles Can Fly’) is known: a gentle guitar teacher plays to a classroom of rapt five year olds. A few have criticised the music for being patchy, which it is. But that’s mealy-mouthed considering the bravery and resistance of the musicians. The personal cost is realised in a sudden spasm of violence at the end, making this a full-throated plea for civil liberties. Incidentally, Ghobadi and his two leads have since had to leave Iran.
Author: Cath Clarke