Miami International Film Festival: Review of Bahman Ghobadi's Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats
In this rare Iranian entry to MIFF, Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi takes us through the underground music scene in Tehran, where all Western-style music is prohibited. Based on real people, places, and events, Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats follows Negar Shaghaghi and Ashkan Koshanejad of the indie band Take It Easy Hospital (yes, a real band) as the members attempt to leave home to play a concert in London. They're escorted by a smooth-talking linchpin of the black market, Nader (Hamed Behdad), who promises to find them passports, visas, and additional bandmates.
Ghobadi switches to fast-cut music video montages as they audition
musicians. Each genre matches up with a different side of life in
Tehran: When the heavy metal sounds, we see breakneck traffic. Blues
rock depicts refugee children sleeping on the streets. Yet Tehran's
indie rock scene looks a lot like ours. Take It Easy Hospital exchanges
secret copies of British music magazine NME with other bands,
the musicians wear CBGB T-shirts alongside women in burqas, and at one
point, Askhan says his greatest wish is to go to Iceland to see the
band Sigur Rós play.
The film, with its MTV-style music video montages and pop culture
references, runs the risk of feeling like a lighthearted documentary.
But in the final ten minutes, the tour through Iranian rock makes an
abrupt and disturbing turn. Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats,
which won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at
Cannes, was co-written by Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi,
who was sentenced to eight years in jail in 2008 after the Iranian
government deemed her a spy.
March 8 at 9:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas South Beach; March 12 at 7:15 p.m., Tower Theater, 1508 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-642-1264
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