Thursday, 1 April 2010

Iranian indie music you say

No One Cares About Persian Cats
Iran | 2009 | 106 minutes | Directed by Bahman Ghobadi | imdb link

So, apparently there's a thriving indie rock scene in Iran. Hundreds of bands playing gigs in abandoned warehouses, on farms, in basements or anywhere they can escape the watchful eyes of the government or bureau of censorship. All non-religious music is strictly banned and rock music is synonomous with devil-worshipping. Negar and Ashkan are two twenty-somethings looking for musicians to join their indie rock band, Take It Easy Hospital, with the aim of going to London to play a gig. The film follows them as they enlist the help of Nader, who convinces them he can sort them out with not only the needed musicians, but also the passports, visas and permits they need in order to get out of the country. They follow him through the underbelly of Tehran's music scene, secret recording studios, rap video shoots and even raves. Things slowly start coming together as their London departure date gets closer and then...well....I'll leave that to you.

I was always going to have a problem with this film. I think the concept of underground music in Iran is incredibly fascinating and definitely something I'd like to know more about, but I don't like the feeling of almost being forced to like a band just because they're making music in a very difficult socio-political environment. And in the end....the band, is just not that special. It's just another average indie band. There's a point in the film where Nader says that there's more than 200 indie rock bands in Iran and I just hope some of them are more exciting than Take It Easy Hospital.

The film would probably have worked better as a documentary, since this fictionalised account of true events comes across a bit like a hand-held infomercial about Iranian indie music with a bit of suspense thrown in. Apparently director Ghobadi is an accomplished documentary maker, so I'm not quite sure why he decided to take the fictional approach. If you want to draw attention to a music scene, and the musicians themselves are willing to be in the film, why ask tem to play characters based on themselves? Some of the more dramatic/moving scenes would have worked much better in a straight interview scenario, rather than as a fictionalised re-enactment. But, what do I know? I'm sure they had their reasons.

In the end the most interesting aspect of the movie for me was just to see what Tehran looks like. It's probably due to my own ignorance, but I was surprised at how "normal" and modern it looked. And all the kids, wearing Converse and Vans and band t-shirts. Where does one go to buy a Strokes t-shirt in Tehran? Hmmmmm.

So, I really don't mean to shit on their parade. Well done for doing all they can in order to make music under such horrible circumstances. It's just not my cup of tea. And since the musicians themselves were very determined to come across as non-political and wanted to be judged on their music alone, I have to do just that....and it's really not my cup of tea. Still, the film was reasonably entertaining. I give it 3 Niks out of 5. Yup.

Take It Easy Hospital myspace

No comments:

Post a Comment