to the Islamist Iranian government, Anoosh and Arash play “satanic” music. In
their case, this means techno-house, but it could refer to any form of music
that is not traditional Persian or classical piano. That necessarily makes the
duo known professionally as Blade & Beard outlaws in their own country.
Eventually, they will have to choose between their home and their passion in
Susanne Regina Meures’s Raving Iran (trailer here), which screens during this
year’s Hot Docs in Toronto.
double meaning of Meures’ title is inescapably spot-on accurate. As they try to
build their careers in Tehran’s ultra-underground rave scene, Anoosh and Arash
constantly ask has nothing changed under Rouhani, the purported “liberal.”
Sadly, the answer is always a resounding no. From the DJs perspective, if the
Islamist regulation of music and culture has changed at all, it has become more
intrusive and arbitrary.
amounts to a Sisyphean mock epic, Anoosh and Arash visit a series of printers
and media stores, hoping to get their album covers printed and possibly secure distribution
for their newest CD. Time and again, the proprietors tell them they are under
government surveillance. Several believe their phones are tapped. One store
owner tells the duo he was recently arrested for selling a heavy metal CD that
had been duly approved by the state, only to have the sanction revoked
retroactively, with no public notice.
the intrepid DJs is even briefly arrested, but fortunately he is not
blackballed from traveling to Switzerland for an electronic music festival.
There Blade & Beard can actually enjoy an alcoholic beverage in public,
while they listen to new music at its most unruly. They definitely make the
most of their days abroad, but a critical decision looms.
Raving, there are a number of grey
dots obscuring the faces of those enjoying the Iranian techno scene and most of
the closing credits for the Iranian shoot are billed as “anonymous.” Obviously,
Meures went to considerable lengths to protect the innocent, as any rational
humanist would see them. Still, we have to wonder how Meures secured some of
the early footage of Anoosh and Arash beating their heads against a wall of
censorship. Some of it is truly mind-blowing, like their visit to the
government office that authorizes (or more likely denies) licenses for public
You cannot hold any illusions about the state of intellectual and
artistic freedom in Iran while watching Raving.
(Quick, let’s make this regime a nuclear power.) On the other hand, it fully
addresses the wrenching emotional decisions involved in asylum-seeking. It is
an extraordinarily brave and honest documentary that also features plenty of
real deal techno. Very highly recommended, Raving
Iran screens this Sunday (5/1), Tuesday (5/3), and next Saturday (5/7), as
part of Hot Docs ’16.
Labels: Documentary, Hot Docs '16, Iran