« Coffee Break | Main | The Sandpiper »

March 28, 2011

No One Knows the Persian Cats

no one knows about persian cats 1.jpg

Kasi az gorbehaye irani khabar nadareh
Bahman Ghobadi - 2009
IFC Films Region 1 DVD

I had briefly read about this film when it played festival circuit a couple of years ago. What I hadn't expected was a hybrid, part documentary, part mockumentary and part long form music video. I'm also surprised that Bahman Ghobadi is still allowed to make films considering how critical he is of like of Tehran, and his depiction of how people get around the various rules imposed on cultural life. Not only is underground life in Tehran depicted, but it is truly underground in some cases.

Negar, a young singer and songwriter, persuades Ashkan to work with her in reforming a band for a performance in London. In addition to recruiting new musicians, the bigger hurdles include getting black market passports and visas. As Negar is a female, there is also the question regarding the possible need to get one or more additional female singers in order to comply with rules regarding women traveling with a group of men. Their conduit for the illegal paperwork as well as other possible musicians is Nader, a dealer of bootleg DVDs.

no one knows about persian cats 2.jpg

Negar and Ashkan, sometimes with, and sometimes without Nader, go on an odyssey of hidden recording studios, private concerts, and makeshift rehearsal spaces. One band rehearses in a cow shed. Another band practices in a small room on top on an apartment, subject to neighbors who call the police. Getting arrested for attending parties is common among the young people here. The songs serve as commentary, sometimes more directly than other times, about daily life as perceived by these artists.

The music ranges from what appears to be more traditional folk to heavy metal. In one bleakly comic scene, Negar performs a composition in progress, inspired by her own time in prison, using several key words that evoke as sense of sadness and isolation, yet astonished when Ashkan describes the song as dark. There's also a rap song, as well as an exuberant performance that appears Sufi inspired.

Iranian Kurd filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi has made a point of going resolutely on his own path. Ghobadi's first, and probably best known, feature, A Time for Drunken Horses depicts tribal Kurds, speaking their own language, living, as they've done for centuries, in the mountain region border between Iran and Iraq. As in his first film, Ghobadi focuses on children in the harrowing Turtles Can Fly, a depiction of George W. Bush's war on Iraq from the point of view of those too young to understand why they are victimized by all sides. No One Knows the Persian Cats has some shocks of its own, but also depicts several different kinds of musicians who remain committed to pursuing the muse, even at the cost of their personal freedom.

no one knows about persian cats 3.jpg

Posted by peter at March 28, 2011 09:10 AM