Directed by Bahman Ghobadi | Iran | 106 mins.
Because of the visibility and popularity in the West of directors like Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Iranian cinema appeared to many to be enjoying a remarkable renaissance in the 1990s. This was a cinema that managed to arouse considerable expressive power within the confines of the tight restrictions placed upon it by the state. However, those of us who have been playing close attention have seen our assumptions about Iranian culture routinely challenged. For many, Bahman Ghobadi’s No One Knows About Persian Cats would have been their first peek into Tehran’s underground music scene. Indie rockers Negar Shaghaghi and Ashkan Koshanejad play versions of themselves in Ghobadi’s film: recently imprisoned performers speeding around Tehran on the back of a motorbike attempting to secure travel documents and recruit other musicians for a gig in London. Some people who worked on the film had done time in prison; others subsequently would. The director and two leads were forced to leave the country after the film had been screened. Fun, joyous, and infectious though it is, No One Knows About Persian Cats is dissident art through and through.
- Written by Jason Wierzba