No One Knows About Persian Cats (R13)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/03/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Bahman Ghobadi's documentary-style drama has an undeniably important message and provides a glimpse of Iran's underground music scene that’s both interesting and informative but it's ultimately bogged down by a repetitive plot and some frustratingly underwritten central characters.

What's it all about?
Directed by Bahman Ghobadi, No One Knows About Persian Cats is a documentary-style drama (it's purportedly “based on real events, locations and people”) that explores the underground music scene in Iran. Set in present-day Tehran, the film follows musicians Ashkan and Negar (played by real life musicians Ashkan Koshanejad and Negar Shaghagi) as they try to form a band and secure the necessary documentation in order to travel to London and play a concert.

Along the way, Ashkan and Negar hook up with Nader (Hamed Behdad), a fast-talking wheeler-dealer who promises to get them what they need and with their options running out, they have no choice but to take him at his word. Meanwhile, the pair meet up with a number of other bands and musicians who perform a variety of gigs in underground venues such as cow sheds, empty warehouses and basements, since playing Western-influenced music is illegal in Iran.

The Good
The film delivers an undeniably important message and provides a fascinating glimpse into Iran's underground music scene, even if you won't exactly be rushing to YouTube to check out any of the bands. (The rap band is particularly excruciating, though it's at least refreshing to note that posturing rapping white boys can be irritating idiots in Iran, too.) Arguably, the film also scores important political points just by the sheer act of showing that life for music-loving teenagers in Tehran isn't actually all that different to that of their Western counterparts.

The Bad
Koshanejad and Shaghagi are both fine, but their characters are frustratingly underwritten and you can't help feeling that the film would have worked better with a more dramatic approach. Similarly, the plot becomes increasingly repetitive as they go from band to band (seemingly in an attempt to illustrate the full breadth of Iran's musical diversity) and some eleventh hour dramatics (notably an effective and upsetting bit with a dog) feel tacked on as a result.

Worth seeing?
No One Knows About Persian Cats is a politically important film with a strong message but it fails to engage on an emotional level and is slightly disappointing as a result.

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Content updated: 21/01/2020 09:24

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