No One Knows About Persian Cats (Bahman Ghobadi, 2009): Iran

Reviewed by Mishone Feigin. Viewed at the AFI Film Festival in Hollywood.

Bahman Ghobadi’s tale of the underground music scene in Iran is beautiful and chock full of amazing cinematography and acting.  The film follows two young musicians in their journey to escape the poverty stricken and creatively oppressed world of Iran.  They wish to go to Europe, and attempt to obtain visas and passports to do so.  During heir journey, they are aided by friends and other musicians who recognize themselves in the two renegades and wish to help them. However, Iran is not an easy place to get out of, and they end up stuck in an endless circle of legal and financial obstacles.  

The film is driven by the amazingly original and beautiful music that Ghobadi used for the soundtrack.  He also featured many of the musicians in the film, so they served as a realistic window into the Iranian youth culture.  The cast was assembled of obviously non-actors, which made the film raw and believable.  The actor’s faces seemed to be so invested in what they were saying.  They were so earnest and so connected to one another.  Also, the music that they played and shared with each other seemed to string them all together, and they had a mutual respect and deep love for each other and one another’s love for music.  

The film documented the life of a young adult in the poorest parts of Iran, while still allowing the characters to be hopeful and passionate.  I really got a feel of the city and its intense energy while watching this film.  The shots were so well composed.  They were full of earthy images and dirty frames.  Many of the frames were jam packed with rapidly moving images and objects, while still always having a central focus, which I gathered is what life is like in Iran: things move fast and often revolve around the well being of one person, whomever is so lucky that day.  

It was painful to watch, because I found myself caring so much for every single character.  Another wonderful thing about this film was the sound.  It was huge and vibrant in my ears, which made me feel like I was in the recording studio with these wonderful musicians.  Overall, it was a low budget film with a lot of heart.  The script was written in two weeks, which is unbelievable.  I triumph in my opinion.  A must-see.

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