Taking its cues from Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up and Jafar Panahi's Offside, both of which employed a blend of fiction and documentary to chronicle extreme cases of fandom, No One Knows About Persian Cats offers a number of Tehran's real-life indie-rock obsessives an opportunity to enact their trials and vent their frustrations on camera. Filmed surreptitiously over the course of seventeen days, Bahman Ghobadi's latest follows twentysomething rockers Negar and Ashkan, who—fresh off their brief stints in prison—are frantically trying to gather their fellow bandmates to play a music festival in London. As they scramble to obtain fake passports, polish their songs, and mount a local show, Ghobadi surveys the cultural landscape: a network of cellars, attics, cowsheds, and hidden studios that provide the only available space for these musicians to indulge their illegal passions.
The film opens in rooms wallpapered with Joy Division and Kurt Cobain posters, but as the lead performers encounter other bands experiencing the same political pressures, we get a chance to sample the wide range of genres developing in the city's underground-pop scene. Quick-and-dirty musical numbers give us a taste of Iranian blues, hip-hop, and heavy metal, and even when Ghobadi ill-advisedly borrows jittery camera tricks from Nineties rock videos, these scenes constitute a fast-paced, politically charged travelogue of the kind not seen in recent Iranian cinema. What emerges is a tender ode to the youth of Tehran, caught between the cosmopolitan currents of their society and the draconian policies of their government.
Opens April 16