Tehran Taboo (2017)

97% – Critics
78% – Audience

Tehran Taboo Storyline

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.

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Tehran Taboo (2017)
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Tehran Taboo Movie Reviews

A boring representation of contemporary life in Teheran

In present day Teheran, stories of multiple characters intertwine, presenting their everyday lives and their search of freedom and happiness. Although living in a very strict regime, plenty of acts, defined as taboo, undergo in the same place, providing an alternate way for people to reach their goals.

It’s a dark and also sad story about discrimination, especially towards women, which basically are not allowed to do anything without their husband’s permission. Thus, some are forced to take desperate measures, venturing into places where different “shortcuts” can be taken with the right amount of cash, of course. As you’re about to see, the black market can be full of surprises, more or less pleasant, depending on the case.

It’s a movie which describes in detail the struggles of Islamic women through the eyes of multiple characters. The story is far from impressive but I believe it delivers what it tries to. It shows the struggles, the ordeals that its characters, not very well described I have to add, have to face, hoping for a better life. The events are presented in parallel, in a very slow and boring manner, letting you wait a long time for something to happen. You can see it as a series of ordinary events, but it’s not. Unfortunately, this is the impression that it leaves. Think of it as if it were to tell the boring story of someone’s repetitive life, but with the emphasis on the ugly part. I understand that it’s a very harsh life, full of discrimination, corruption and lots of other ugly aspects, but it would have been much better suited as a documentary. As a movie, it simply is boring as hell. Nothing interesting to be seen, mostly predictable, with boring characters and a mediocre story. Not to mention that the finale is as disappointing (if not worse) as the rest of the film, due to its sudden appearance, bringing little to no conclusion to the stories.

You could find a good part in the visual department but as far as I’m concerned, it left much to be desired. It’s an unique approach regarding this department, but one which didn’t impress me at all. It’s just OK. No pluses and no minuses.

As a conclusion, I had better expectations from this movie regarding every single angle. I’ve seen a documentary disguised as an animation for the mature audience which didn’t manage to bring anything that can make it worthwhile to be seen.

animated realism

‘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.

A requiem for the dying Iran

A great movie showing the problems of Iranians in these days. It’s so sad that these are really happening. An interesting choice was Zahra Amir Ebrahimi who was the victim of this Iranian morality that forced her to leave Iran. She was a victim of the same thing in the movie, too.