Slough Cooperative Film Society Slough Cooperative Film Society



Germany/Austria 2017 94 mins Cert. 15

Pari Elmira Rafizadeh Director Ali Soozandeh
Zahra Amir Ebrahimi
Arash Marandi
Screenplay Ali Soozandeh

Grit Kienzlen

Elias Bilal Yasar Cinematographer Martin Gschlacht
Donya Negar Mona Alizadeh Editors Frank Geiger
Hasan Ali Mete
Alireza Bayram
Music Andrea Mertens
Ali N. Askin

By shooting real footage and then animating it rotoscopically, filmmaker Ali Soozandeh cleverly provides a layer of distance in this multi-strand exploration of moralistic Iranian society. This is a funny, honest, lively film about four loosely connected young people, three of them women struggling to navigate a system in which they are nothing without husbands. And the animation is beautiful.

Tehran Taboo poster

With her husband in prison, Pari provides sex for a judge in exchange for a flat where she can live with her mischievous, observant young son Elias. Her neighbour Sara is a young wife who needs a break from her in-laws, but her banker husband doesn't want her to get a job. Meanwhile, musician Babak works in a pulsing nightclub where he met Donya for sex and drugs. But now she's worried that her hulking fiancé will kill them both unless he pays for her virginity restoration.

The film opens with a breathtaking depiction of the hypocrisy in Iranian society, where men in this film are happy to exploit vulnerable women, even as they claim the moral high ground. The double standard is staggering, as everyone judges everyone else. Iranian filmmaker Soozandeh's German citizenship offers the chance to speak with remarkable honesty about life in Tehran under a religious regime. And the animation allows for an unusually frank depiction of these things.

Each character has a snappy personality, and the script looks through the eyes of the most precarious people. Sara's pregnancy has removed any freedom she hoped to find. Babak finds navigating the system a minefield of moments that could destroy his life, and it's of course even more dangerous for Donya. Pari has to steel herself even in the most compromising situations. And Elias watches everything, clearly hoping that one day they can achieve more than the illusion of freedom.

As everywhere on earth, people with money make the rules. And these characters are driven to desperation to pay for what they need. Babak's has been flatly refused permission to sell his CD for not conforming to Islamic values. Pari has to endure a nonstop aggressive innuendo. The filmmaking is astute and bold, touching on events that would be impossible to shoot in Iran. So perhaps it sometimes feels far too grim. But the point is important. And the skilled cast and crew make sure we remember it.

Rich Cline at