In this gorgeously animated drama, the lives of several strong-willed women and a young musician intersect. Their stories reveal the hypocrisies of modern Iranian society, where sex, drugs, and corruption coexist with strict religious law. In the bustling metropolis of Tehran, avoiding prohibitions has become an everyday sport and breaking taboos can be a means of personal emancipation. Nevertheless, women invariably end up on the bottom rung of the social order. A young woman needs an operation to "restore" her virginity. A judge in the Islamic Revolutionary Court exhorts favors from a prostitute in exchange for a favorable ruling. The wife of an imprisoned drug addict is denied the divorce she needs in order to live independently. Making use of rotoscope animation, expat Iranian filmmaker Ali Soozandeh creates a portrait of contemporary Tehran that would be impossible by any other means.Written by
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'Tehran Taboo' is a film that could not have been made in Iran today. Its creator, film director and animator Ali Soozandeh lives in exile, and the film was made in Germany and Austria in 2017. The action takes place in Tehran today, a metropolis with many modern aspects (architecture, traffic, advertising), but also a city controlled and dominated by the laws of the Islamic Republic. Contemporary Iranian cinematography has managed to bring this city and some of the political problems and moral dilemmas of its inhabitants to the screen in many films, some remarkable, but no overt criticism, nor open approach to sexuality and issues related to women's status, could have appeared so directly in a movie produced in Iran. By the technique chosen (animation derived from filmed acting, called in specialized terminology 'computerized rotoscoping'), Soozandeh manages to create a film which looks modern as means of expression, and which exposes openly, almost exhibitionistly, some of the themes that are prohibited or difficult to tackle for film makers living and creating in Iran.
In many ways, Ali Soozandeh's film resembles the films of his colleagues filming in Iran. Tehran streets, taxis, house interiors, confrontations with religious authorities, strict norms of Islamic morality, family issues - all are familiar to those who watch contemporary Iranian films. The decor is the same, but the stories are different. There are first of all female stories related to the situation of women in a country where these are subject to double discrimination - the political one togrther with men, the social one because of their status as women in a society in which the family laws but also the economic or professional ones subordinates the women to the will of men (husbands, fathers, brothers). Far from ensuring the moral tranquility and the social security desired by the authorities, repression creates an entire underground world characterized by corruption, domestic violence, prostitution, drugs. Can ordinary citizens and especially today's young people in Iran lead a normal life? The point of view is quite pessimistic - from the current situation there seem to be only two exit gates: exile or death.
Ali Soozandeh continues and extends the trend of using animation as a format for political docu-drama. It is very interesting to note that the source of this trend and some of its major achievements originate in the Middle East. Both Marjane Satrapi, the author of 'Persepolis', also an Iranian who lives and works in exile, and the Israeli Ari Folman, the author of 'Waltz with Bashir' come from cultures in which the imagery of the human figure is forbidden. Their approach to animation is determined not only by the desire to use a form of popular culture that has become quasi-universal, but also as a gesture of artistic frond and distancing from constraining traditions. 'Tehran Taboo' succeeds both artistically and politically, capturing the attention and sending a message of defiance and a cry for help. The film looks good from an aesthetic point of view. Its female characters very well developed, especially for an animated movie, and are memorable - full of humanity, dignity, humor. Through his animation, defying the prohibitions and bringing up the taboos that his colleagues cannot speak about as openly, Soozandeh continues and complements the works of today's other filmmakers in Iran.
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