Director Bahman Ghobadi was well aware of the risks involved in making “No One Knows About Persian Cats” — imprisonment, passport revocation and possible exile — but the 41-year-old director was determined to tell this story.
“The subject was so important for me, and it was worth anything,” he says of his guerrilla-style pseudo documentary, which gives a voice to Tehran’s underground music scene.
Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, certain music (especially Western) has been banned by the government — meaning artists like the film’s indie rocker protagonists Negar (Negar Shaghaghi) and Ashkan (Ashkan Koshanejad) are forced to practice in hiding and could be thrown in jail for their art.
Shot on the fly during a 17-day period, Ghobadi mostly lets the story speak for itself.
“All the locations, all the people are real — I didn’t even change their clothing,” he says. “If someone told me they practiced in the cow shed I said, ‘Let’s go and shoot that.’”
Besides the sheer courage of these young musicians, their modern style and influences — edgy haircuts, oversized quirky glasses, Sigur Ros albums — are also fascinating to see.
“They are a lot more advanced than what you even see in the film,” says Ghobadi. “I asked them to keep [their clothes] very low profile because I didn’t want them to be seen. After the revolution, these kids were imprisoned at home. [All they had was] their very slow Internets, and they were searching the world with a lot of thirst and motivation. If it hadn’t been for this Islamic Revolution, you would’ve seen a lot more intellectual and advanced people coming from this country. The revolution actually put a black veil [over this generation].”