March 23, 2023

No One Knows About Persian Cats, (Not Rated/ ITC Films/Iran 2009/101 Minutes/Farsi with English subtitles) is the first true depiction of the reality of young Iranian musicians of popular music. The film from Bahman Ghobadi and written by Roxana Saberi will open at Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis on June 4.

The story surrounds two young musicians, Negar (played by Negar Shaghaghi), Ashkan (played by Ashkan Koshanejad), with a supporting part of Nadar (played by Hamed Behdad). Recently released from prison who decide to form a band. Together they search the underworld of contemporary Tehran for other players.

Forbidden by the authorities to play in Iran, they plan to escape from their clandestine existence, and dream of performing in Europe. But with no money and no passports, it won’t be easy.

In his Director’s Statement, Bahman Ghobadi said that in the eyes of Islam, music (ghéna) is impure, giving rise as it can to cheerfulness and joy. Hearing a woman singing is considered a sin, because of the emotions it stirs.

He adds that for the last 30 years in Iran, certain music, and in particular western music, has been virtually forbidden by the authorities. It has been forced into hiding underground – where even those that listen to it dare not acknowledge it outside of their closest circles.

“This intrigued me, and the idea for the film was born,” said Ghobadi. “Cinema gave me the courage to make No One Knows About Persian Cats.”

Ghobadi ventured into the heart of Tehran and descended the dark steps into the cellars where this music is played. He discovered a strange world, different and fascinating.

“It is a hidden world of rebel musicians, unseen and unheard by the majority of the city’s population,” he added. “And as I witnessed their world, their lives, their artistic concerns, the dangers they face, troubles with their neighbors, arrest by the police, savage beatings and more… when I saw all they go through simply because they sing, play an instrument, love music… I said to myself that this film had to be made.”

The film was written by Roxana Saberi, the former Miss North Dakota 1997, and graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, who became a journalist and was imprisoned in Iran in January 2009 and accused of spying for the United States. She would remain in jail for 100 days until an appeals court released her following an international uproar.

Saberi, also the executive producer, has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and another in International Relations from Cambridge University. Since her release, Saberi has been working on a memoir of her experiences in Iran, “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran” published by HarperCollins in 2010.

Ghobadi was born in 1969, in Baneh, Iran, a city near the Iraq border in the province of Kurdistan. He moved to Tehran in 1992 for post secondary education in industrial photography and studied filmmaking for some time at the Iranian Broadcasting College.

From the mid-1990s on, Ghobadi’s short films began to receive foreign and domestic awards. Life In Fog became the most famous documentary to come from Iranian cinema. His debut feature film, A Time For Drunken Horses was released in 1999, was the first full-length Kurdish feature and established Ghobadi as an international director.

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