ASHKAN AND NEGAR have a problem many musicians face: They need to recruit members for their band. However, they must do so without the use of Craigslist or a flyer pinned to the cork wall in Guitar Center. Oh, and if the government finds out that have a band, they'll go to jail, or worse. Probably worse.
Welcome to life as a musician in Iran. As the strict fundamentalism of Sharia and the temptations of Western culture collide, the vast youthful populace of Iran is forced to desperately hide their artistic expression using any number of risky methods, a decision that musical partners Ashkan (Ashkan Koshanejad) and Negar (Negar Shaghaghi) no longer want to do. They want out. Now.
With a UK concert date looming, the couple—alongside a slick-talking bootlegger/manager named Nader (Hamed Behdad)—race through every (illegal) soundproofed practice space in Tehran, seeking kindred spirits willing to both join their band and make the difficult and remarkably dangerous decision to flee their homeland. This includes chance meetings with a metal band forced to play in a hay-strewn cattle shed, to an indie band that uses discarded clothes atop drums to muffle the noise and keep their music far from their disapproving ears of neighbors and—more importantly—the police. There's also the matter of getting out of the country, which requires an illegal trifecta of bribing officials to overlook military service requirements, forging passports, and turning to smugglers to create visas.
With its endearing shoestring budget and a cast that bears the weight of sacrificing national identity for the chance to be free of persecution in a foreign land, Persian Cats should be mandatory viewing for any Western artist that takes their opportunities for granted. Because if you think a bad review from Pitchfork can hurt a band, just wait until you see what the Iranian Revolutionary Guard can do.