x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

No One Knows About Persian Cats

No One Knows About Persian Cats was put together hastily, and it feels like it, but that does little to diminish its zingy charm

Bahman Ghobadi's fifth feature is an odd beast. A narrative that purports to be based on true events and which is largely acted by its real-life subjects, it plays fast and loose with the fact-fiction boundary, not to mention Iran's public order legislation. The film follows a pair of agreeably shambling indie rock musicians as they travel around Tehran trying to put a band together and wangle forged travel documents so they can play in London. The hitch? The kind of music they like to play is banned, so rehearsal space is tricky to find. Oh, and the cast and crew didn't have permission to film so they had to do it all in tearing haste and secrecy. Since the chief subjects were illegal rock bands, it's no surprise that the finished product bristles with a nervy, headlong energy. The two leads, Ashkan (Ashkan Koshanejad) and Negar (Negar Shaghaghi), race from cowshed to car park meeting the hidden lights of Tehran's underground music scene - angry rappers, Strokes-like guitar bands who trade in smuggled copies of the NME, a truly amazing electric blues band and many more. If the film feels like a string of smartly edited musical performances held together by hasty, ad hoc narrative passages, that does little to diminish its zingy charm. A resoundingly off-key ending achieves twice as much pathos as the chaotic plot looked capable of delivering. The whole thing is a bit of a mess, but as a tribute to free-spirited artistry and also as an example of it, it's an easy one to love.

No One Knows About Persian Cats screens tonight at 7pm at the Emirates Palace auditorium and tomorrow at 6.15pm at Cinestar 1, Marina Mall.