Clip from an illegally made movie about Iran's underground rock scene

No One Knows About Persian Cats was filmed secretly, in just 17 days, in and around Tehran—where rocking out without government permission can earn you three months in prison.

"After the 1979 revolution, almost all public places were closed down, so you had a lot of these kids who are unemployed, sitting at home, and they start spending all their time on the internet with these very slow connections visiting unfiltered websites," [director Bahman] Ghobad told in a phone interview. "In order to not fall behind the rest of the world, they tried to familiarize themselves with the music of the West, and accomplished a lot in this way."


  1. “dreaming is my reality” beautiful & unintentional effect of legislating a society around a man-made religion that doesn’t jive with the hearts of many.

  2. Am I not thinking clearly? Because I’m having a hard time fitting an image of Iranian kids back in 1979, sitting around surfing their slow internet connections. I had a slower than slow internet connection in 1979 and all through the 80s, so slow it didn’t exist at all.

    1. When he says that as a result of the 1979 revolution you had “a lot of these kids who are unemployed, sitting at home, and they start spending all their time on the Internet”, I don’t think he means immediately after. He most likely means that kids were going on the Internet later on as a result of the long lasting effects of the revolution.

    2. That was my thought, too. In 1979, I had a CBM Pet computer and no modem, because they just weren’t available. But maybe the birth of Islamofascism in Iran afforded them better technology than the one’s who originated it.

    3. That was my thought, too. In 1979, I had a CBM Pet computer and no modem, because they just weren’t available. But maybe the birth of Islamofascism in Iran afforded them better technology than the one’s who originated it. But rock the Casbah, my brothers. In the face of your society, it’s the only right thing to do.

      @incant Of course that’s what he meant, but that’s not what he said. Wars have been started for less.

  3. I heard about this on my local NPR station (KERA in Dallas). Awesome is all I have to say as an old punk rock musician. Buy my question is this, why no helmet on the motorcycle?

  4. @ #9. I was really digging the fact that they didn’t have to wear helmets on the motorcycle.

    “I remember when we would blast down the highways on our old Honda SuperSports and feel the wind in our hair. We’d ride in the back of pick-ups, too! That’s right! Right in the bed! No seat belts, no bars to hold on to. Hell, sometimes we’d even jump over the tailgate while the truck was STILL SLOWING TO A HALT! How about that? Kids these days wouldn’t know a real sensory experience if it came up and shoved an arm up their anus. Why, when I was a girl…”

    I miss some things. I bet those kids roller-blading down the crowded city sidewalk weren’t wearing helmets either. The Horror.

    Back on topic, that song was pretty great. I wish there were more. I really respect and thank those guys/gals for taking the risk. But I hope they don’t get find themselves incarcerated for subversion.

    1. @artaxerxes I’m not a huge helmet advocate, but I believe that in certain circumstances, a helmet is wise to wear.

    2. “I miss some things. I bet those kids roller-blading down the crowded city sidewalk weren’t wearing helmets either. The Horror.”

      Today I returned from Malaysia where lots of people ride motorbikes without helmets and many people drive without seatbelts. On the surface it looks idyllic but I also spent time in a hospital ward for people with severe head injuries, where my wife’s uncle is a patient.

      That ward has many more patients than I expected, considering that it is in an expensive private hospital, where health insurance is uncommon.

      1. I think that even without a helmet, you ought to wear leathers to ward off the road burns.

        Speaking of black leather, and thinking about rock music, I am reminded that rock’n’roll is hardly viewed as a benevolent nor as being culturally progressive by very very many.
        Thus, this rock song, in praise of black leather (which to my ears seems charmingly retro), may cause authorities everywhere to pause – and not just religious authorities:

        Smash smash smash!
        Kill kill kill!

  5. @artaxerxes: I’m all for people being stupid, that’s the American way. But knowing several people that have been killed, made to be brain dead or have had to go through years of therapy and still not be close 100% in their there brain activity because of a small accident (or large) where there skulls hit the pavement with nothing in-between the road and their head…

  6. People, the kid’s what, 18-19? He already thinks he’s invulnerable and that’s before you add in the fact that he’s in a real-life Rock n Roll underground.

    Imagine how much more of a ‘Fuck, yeah!’ every gig of theirs is compared to every last basement-club hardcore gig/squat party rave/whatever you or I went to gave us. And those times were pretty fucking good, IIRC. Doing that for kicks must be like a live wire straight to the brain. I’m surprised they don’t think they can walk through bloody walls.

    Awesome, and carry on sticking it to The Man, kids! Oh, and don’t get caught.

  7. Oh yeah: there’s a unicorn in the vid I just posted to.
    just thought I’d point that out that for the unicorn fans who may be reading.

    PS: To Iranians of all ages: Rock on!

  8. I’ve seen the film a couple of months ago (in Farsi, subtitled in French). It is indeed very interesting, and it gives some incredible insight on Tehran everyday life, as well as on the underground scene of Iranian music.

    That said, it is not a masterpiece of cinema. Its value is in the incredible setting and documentary value, not in the intrinsic artistic quality. However, I really loved the photography, the views of Tehran and the colours of Iran. The music is so-so, but it has to be representative of independent clandestine Iranian bands, hence it perfectly serves the purpose.

    As a final warning: it is the most cruel film I have ever seen. Don’t plan to go, watch it and then have a casual beer with friends, you won’t be in the right mood.

  9. It’s a pretty superb film. I’ve followed a few of the bands in particular- the Free Keys managed to establish themselves in London quite recently.

  10. Recommended! This is brave filmmaking + brave music. I saw it recently at a screening followed by Q&A with the director, the co-writer and the Yellow Dogs (the band who appeared in the movie) – all safely out of Iran, as are the main characters Negar and Ashkan, who are now in London.

    In New York it’s now playing at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza. Watch it!

  11. I saw the movie in february at the international film festival in Rotterdam (Netherlands) with a Q&A with the director and actors present. The movie is inspiring and depressing at the same time. It may not be the cinematic highlight of the year artistically (whatever that may mean) but since it’s a political movie first and foremost that doesn’t really detract from the impact the film can have, especially if you (like myself) knew very little about Iranian subculture. It’s a great inside-look for the uninitiated and a confirmation that Iran’s biggest problem is a government that does not trust it’s own people.

  12. I’m very interested in seeing this, and since I heard about it just waiting for it to come to Chicago.

    I saw one other of his films, on a bit of Iranian film kick a few years back. I would highly recommend “Turtles Can Fly,” a film made in newly postwar Iraqi Kurdistan. Powerful is the first word that comes to mind. It was both enjoyable, and deeply affecting. Other Iranian new wave films (the Makhmalbafs as well as Abbas Kiarostami come to mind) also share some of the spirit of this. It will be interesting to see this work with a documentary. One with sweet music no less.

  13. Man…I hope we don’t bomb these people. Ok. their gov’t sux ass but the kids are alright.

  14. Proof positive rock is universal.

    I like the coverage of good bands, be it from America, Europe, or anywhere.

    That Die Antwoord stuff was/is pretty sweet.

  15. I’ve never seen a movie from Iran before this. Wow. Rock’s always been anti-authority, but this is serious. It also put individual faces on the Iranian people for me.

  16. Really gives lie to simplistic “smash the Moslems,” “clash of civilizations” type thinking. Iran is not a monolith, and some of these nonmonolithians apparently know how to rock pretty hard in secret. Good times!

  17. I’ll say it: the music is late-90’s numetal. I’m not a fan of numetal. However, the caution they practice and the risks they take are commendable, regardless of whether or not I like the music. These guys really do jump through hoops to express themselves they way they see fit, and I really like that. I’ll be interested in the music its self when they figure out how to blastbeat and stop singing like drowningpool.

    1. Not sure how you arrived at that conclusion- most of the music in the film is indie of one stripe or another. There’s one band who had been metal, but had to turn it down a bit so they could occasionally get a permit to perform.

  18. very cool and humanizing. good to be able to think of people outside of socio-political terms. rock on!

  19. I got a brochure from Iranians protesting against the Shah on the Capitol steps on a vacation to Washington, D.C. with my parents in 1978. I was rooting for them.

  20. ahem, for the sqeamish indiviuals above heckling our brave young rockers who ‘Rocking with their Tehrans Out’, so to speak.
    Cities built and planned before the advent of modern civilization were done so with foot travel in mind. The American mentality of the open road, 90 km per hour speeds etc, is unusual in the perspective of non westerners. Also, Illinoisan and Texans as far as I know do not feel the need to protect their melons. See, proof that America must claim its own stupidity. Lids are also expensive. These young rockers need to save their cash for imported guitar strings, vodka for easing young ladies out of their bourkas and the corrective surgery for when the establishment makes the barre chord an offense punishable by broken thumb.
    Keep rocking the free world Tehran.

  21. Does no one else feel worried that everyone’s faces are being shown? Can’t help but think that at least a couple people are going to jail for this.

  22. This looks really good, it reminds me a lot of the documentary which came out a few years ago called Heavy Metal in Baghdad which similarly they followed a rock group. During this one their studio actually gets bombed and it destroys their instruments and stuff, is a brilliant doc though for anyone thats interested. Heres the trailer –

  23. For those that haven’t seen it yet, the director openly encourages sharing his film. Most torrents include this short clip of him explaining this on camera:

    “i’m very proud of that you can watch my movie without pay any prices. it’s solvent for you, and you can give it to everyone”

    Unfortunately, the subtitles available for the film itself are similarly sketchy (as of yet).

  24. So I met this Iranian guy when I was travelling in Turkey some 10 years back, he hated what his country had become. Old enough to remember more liberal times, he bemoaned the fact that the ‘elders’ had decreed music and dancing and most forms of fun to be illicit. He had spent the best part of the previous 5 years walking the surrounding countries and had the passport stamps that proved it. He was fascinated by my London life and practically begged me to invite him to visit me as that was the only way he could gain entry to the UK – going as far as offering to serve me for a year if I did so. I mistook his desperation for something else but having learned more of the history of the Iranian people have always felt bad that I didn’t offer him that opportunity. “You dance in the streets – I’ve seen it on TV” is a snippet of conversation that sticks with me.
    It’s not an everyday occurrence but we don’t face imprisonment if we choose to do so. Crazy Iranian Dude on the ferry – I hope you found a place to dance.

  25. This reminds me of the film Global Metal, a documentary about heavy metal music from around the world.

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