No One Knows About Persian Cats (4 stars)

No One Knows About Persian Cats

(12) 106min

Gifted and celebrated Iranian filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses, Turtles Can Fly) threw caution to the wind and hung his reputation on the line in the making of this freewheeling semi-documentary about Tehran’s illegal underground music scene.

Musicians Negar and Ashkan are looking for band members and illegal passports to get them to a crucial concert in London. Their search takes them to the subterranean bunkers, skyscraper rooftops, barns and orchards where musicians break the law to make the music. They discover that, despite persecution – heavy metal, hip hop, indie, rock, pop, folk and even electronica are alive and well but keeping a low profile in modern-day Iran. Will they put the band together before the authorities close in?

Ghobadi’s celebration of Tehran’s much sinned-against alternative music scene is broad, warm-hearted and generous. Filmed on the hoof without a permit with non-actors, some of the scenarios are a little hokey but the music is everything here, and it is phenomenal. The accompanying soundtrack album has to be one of the world music purchases of the year. Extras include a more thrilling than usual making-of featurette.