Persian Cats at Cannes 2009

Another director wrestling with his government is Bahman Ghobadi. After much campaigning he managed this week to have Roxana Saberi, his Iranian-American fiancee and a journalist who collaborated on the screenplay, released from jail, where she’d been imprisoned on trumped-up charges of being a US spy.

No One Knows About The Persian Cats, screened in the Un Certain Regard section, explores the underground music scene in Teheran which, perhaps unexpectedly, turns out to be a hotbed of rappers, metal bands and indie rockers who sport Strokes T-shirts and line their rehearsal spaces with Joy Division posters.

The film continues Ghobadi’s long-term interest in kinds of political resistance offered by music. It would make a good companion piece to Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti’s recent Heavy Metal In Baghdad and Kevin Fritz’s Wasted Orient, about Chinese punks. Scrappy and overlong, it works better as a documentary than as a drama, though its ending is both unexpected and deeply moving.