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No One Knows About Persian Cats
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No One Knows About Persian Cats – Review


“No One Knows About Persian Cats” follows two young musicians, Negar (Shaghaghi) and her “boyfriend” Ashkan (Koshanejad) in their quest to form an indie Rock band, cut a record, stage a concert in Tehran and then emigrate to London where they are supposed to perform.

It sounds easy, but in conservative Iran it’s not. They must obtain a permit in order to form a band and perform. They also need passports and visas in order to travel out of Iran. And Negar must find other females to perform alongside her, because women are forbidden from singing solo.

They meet an exuberant young fixer Nader (Behdad), who leads them into Tehran’s underground worlds of music and documents forgers. But soon turns out that reality is rough even for smooth Nader.


In this docu-drama, the Iranian-Kurdish director, Bahman Ghobadi, dives into no less politically sensitive topic in Iran than the Kurdish themes of his previous movies. He boldly tackles censorship of art and repression of liberties in contemporary Iran, where artists are stifled by strict Islamic rules and subjected to an uncompromising bureaucracy.

The story begins with Ghobadi trying to obtain a permit to make his film. We later learn that a permit is required for any form of artistic activity or creation, including forming a band, performing, holding a concert, playing certain music…etc, otherwise one risks lengthy incarceration, savage lashes and heavy fines.

The story of Negar and Ashkan is compelling and their journey is fascinating and suspenseful. They, with their motor-mouth fixer, Nader, lead us into Tehran’s ‘literally’ underground world, where we meet desperate yet passionate musicians performing surreptitiously in derelict basements, rooftops and even in smelly cow barns. They are fired by their art and intoxicated by their desire to practice it. They risk their physical liberty for those precious moments of artistic freedom.

And leaving Iran is even riskier and far costlier. Negar and Ashkan have to enter the underground world of document forgery, where an eccentric old man, in an attic, promises to deliver any travel document on the face of the planet, including an Afghani visa, European passports and a US green card, but at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars – mind you the Afghani visa costs only 5 dollars.

In spite of the difficult subject matter, the film is told light-heartedly and is imbued with delightful humour. The scene where emotional Nader extricates himself from a heavy fine and 50 lashes for possessing American DVDs is hilarious. Other scenes are equally cheerful.

“No One Knows About Persian Cats” is packed with local rock, heavy metal, jazz and blues, intercut with shots of Tehran and its people and superimposed with social and political lyrics. Many of the songs were played by well-known Iranian musicians.

Ghobadi shot this film without a permit, and like his characters, risked a punishment from the authorities. He was arrested twice during the shoot, and his fiancé, the Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi, who co-wrote and co-produced this film, was arrested and accused of spying for the US, provoking anger and condemnation from Western world. She was released from jail shortly before the film’s premiere in Cannes, where it was voted the best film in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival.

Opens nationwide 26th March 2010



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