[content warning: spoilers]
In 2017, the German-Iranian director Aki Soozandeh released the animation drama Tehran Taboo which gives insight into the tabooed world of sex in Tehran. It artistically depicts the intertwined stories of three young people in Tehran seeking their freedom. It is a must-see.
The film opens with a harsh scene in a car showing the main character Pari engaging in a sexual act for money while her son is sitting undisturbed in the back seat. She has to take her son everywhere with her, as he is not accepted to school due to his muteness. She has no-one to look after him until she meets her new neighbours.
Sara and Babak’s stories can be interpreted as different outcomes of similar situations as Pari’s. This allows the viewer to get a multi-dimensional insight into a culture in which women are socially and legally dependent on men. Sara, pregnant and then left by her husband, commits suicide at the end of the film. She jumps off a building wearing wings, mirroring the freedom of bird flocks always crossing the pastel skies.
Tehran Taboo immerses the viewer in a culture in which sexism is very prevalent. From the first scene radio news is prevalent in the background, streaming sexist information. Short scenes showing daily-life in the city depict women’s lives as well, such as seeing women in burkas working out in the park.
The underground club scene has violet settings. Here, dance, sex, and drugs collide. Babak sleeps with a woman, who later finds him and tells him that she is engaged to a man whose face we never see, being too large for the camera to catch more than a part of his shady suit, effectively evoking fear. Babak tries everything in his power to finance a hymen replacement surgery for her.
Tehran Taboo takes viewers into Iran’s capital’s secret world of sex. The artistic visualisation and sound as well as the storyline immerse the viewer deeply. The film is made with care, with beautiful imagery and metaphors in its animation. I am left in contemplation about consent, sex, and relationships.
Screening dates for Tehran Taboo at the GFT can be found here.
The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card to students, available here.
[Image credit: Kino Lorber]