Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Green Wave

Perhaps what fascinates me the most about Iranian cinema is the urgent, visceral interaction between the zeitgeist of oppression in the country and the craft the filmmakers use to react to and comment on it. With renowned directors like Jafar Panahi (Offside) and Mohammad Rasoulof (The White Meadows) being arrested and banned from filmmaking by the Iranian regime, the stakes are so high for all filmmakers in Iran that such jeopardy cannot help but coat the characters and stories in their films.

The latest example is Dog Sweat, wherein young Tehranis pursue such innocent desires as alcohol, companionship, and musical expression, all in the face of systematic oppression.

The trailer is reminiscent of another recent Iranian film, No One Knows About Persian Cats. This, the fifth directorial work by Iranian-Kurd Bahman Ghobadi, follows a couple of bandmates as they race around Tehran trying desperately to both secure visas to travel to London for a music festival and plan one last underground concert in their home country before leaving. The film is a wonderful and at times hysterical journey through the electric, boisterous world of illegal music in urban Iran; its a universe that is quite similar to yet terrifyingly different from the one this American viewer inhabits. What might get you played on KEXP in Seattle will get you arrested in Tehran if you are not careful.

Indeed it is true that all cinema, regardless of national origin, reflects the reality it is conceived in to some degree, but the films coming out of Iran, especially since the unprecedented post-election protests and deadly crackdown, seem like a natural and crucial part of the life of that country. 

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