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Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Koshanejad, Hamed Behdad

Lady getting passport: What kind of music do you play?
Negar: Indie Rock.
Lady getting passport: Oh, I love Indie Rock!  50 cent, Madonna…they’re great!

Two underground musicians, Negar and Ashkan, in Tehran, Iran try to form a band and leave the country so they can play their music.

This is an interesting little movie.  It’s apparently based on some true stories, but I’m not sure to what extent.  I do know that the 2 lead actors are actual musicians who have experienced problems with playing their music in Tehran and want to leave Iran.  So maybe it’s based on them?  I’m not sure, but I do know that more certainly happens to the characters in the movie than has happened to the real life Negar and Ashkan.

This sort of reminded me of the movie Once, but less romantic and more serious.  And with characters that aren’t quite as interesting.  At least, the two leads aren’t.  Hamed Behdad, as Nader, steals the show.  He’s the kind of guy that knows everybody and can talk his way out of just about any situation, and with all of his bootlegging and underground dealings, he has to talk his way out of plenty of them.

Basically the movie is a tour of the underground music scene in Tehran.  As they search for possible band members, Negar and Ashkan encounter heavy metal, blues, rap, and rock artists of all kinds.  Each one gets a moment to play something, usually accompanied by shots of the city and its people.  Essentially it’s saying that this is what the people want, so why is the government so intent on stifling it?

After a while, the pattern of meeting a band, listening to them play, realizing most of them couldn’t join their band, Nader telling them he knows of another band, meeting a new band wore me down.  It really is more of a musical showcase rather than a character driven story.  So, when the emotional ending rolls around, it didn’t hit me too hard because I didn’t feel nearly as connected to the characters as I should.  Plus, I’m not sure I even understood what happened at the end.  It was a little ambiguous…I think.

I liked the three main actors, even if two of them are underdeveloped a tad, there’s some nice cinematography, and some of the music is good.  Overall, though, I just couldn’t get into this movie very much.  It’s probably worth seeing though, just to get an idea of what it’s like to try to play music in a country that might arrest you because of the content of your lyrics.

Wouldn’t suggest that your band books any tour dates in Iran any time soon.

10 – .8 for the two leads being a little underdeveloped – 2 because the format just sort of wore me down with its repetitive nature – .7 because some of the music was not at all enjoyable = 6.5