WATCH: Forbidden to See Us Scream in Tehran

I went to check out this short movie (17 minutes) along with a few other conservative activist documentaries last night. (I’ll share them all.) This one is stunning. Especially as it was made just before the uprising in Iran following the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in Tehran by morality police – a dedicated unit that enforces strict dress codes for women, such as wearing the compulsory headscarf.

The director, Farbod Ardebili, was there. He told us he directed it from the USA via the encrypted phone app, WhatsApp. He explained that in order to get a permit to film in the streets that he wrote a script within a script. The big script was pro-morality police. That way, when it was shown in its true form in the US he could rightly claim it was edited “by the Americans” to make Iran look bad – and in doing so they could protect the actors and crew from punishment.

The Plot: The frontwoman for an Iranian death metal band risks everything as she plots to call the cops on her own underground concert in the hopes that the raid will help her secure her asylum in another country.

The opening scene is menacing because we just know that’s what it’s like for women there.

This is Ardebili’s sixth short film and is based on the director’s experience as a metal musician in Iran. Ardebili lives in exile in the United States, and he remotely directed the film entirely using WhatsApp. Every shot is meticulously placed, and nothing in Forbidden to See Us Scream in Tehran feels out of order.

Viewers may or may not be familiar with the persecution that heavy metal music faces in Iran, which underwent a drastic change following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. More recently, two Iranian musicians, Nikan Siyanor Khosravi and DJ Khosravi Arash “Chemical” Ilkhani of the metal band Confess, were arrested in 2015 and sentenced to over 12 years in prison and 74 lashes. The musicians fled to Norway following two months in solitary confinement in Iran’s Evin prison.

But the persecution of metal music is only one side of the plot. Forbidden to See Us Scream in Tehran tells the story of Shima, a woman, which brings in a whole other range of issues that Iranian women have spent decades fighting.

After the 1979 Revolution, Iran placed restrictions on music in general, but for women it was far more pronounced. Women were forbidden from singing solo in front of men as Islamist clerics propagated that their voices were haram and could trigger immoral arousal. Even for an all-female audience, women are prohibited from singing solo. The most famous instance of the persecution against female musicians is that of the Iranian-born Israeli singer, Rita Yahan-Farouz, who became popular after a series of Farsi-language albums; the Iranian government accused her of working with Israel to  plot against her birth country.

These restrictions have continued into the present decade, but women have found other ways to untether their voices. More here at PostScript Magazine.