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My Tehran for Sale
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10 from 1,334 votes
Release: 31 January 2010 (Netherlands) /

My Tehran for Sale

Genre: Drama
Director: Granaz Moussavi,
Stars: , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Marzieh is a young female actress living in Tehran. The authorities ban her theatre work and, like all young people in Iran, she is forced to lead a secret life in order to express herself artistically. At an underground rave, she meets Iranian born Saman, now an Australian citizen, who offers her a way out of her country and the possibility of living without fear. Written by Cyan Films

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Critic Reviews


For those wishing to pursue cinematic alternatives to mainstream American films hitting the multiplexes each week, the most readily accessible options in terms of 'foreign films' more often than not sadly fall prey to the widespread critiques of either being faulty representations of the culture on display, or as being reducible to a misguided politically charged statement. As such, it is nothing less than a delight to discover a film which not only gives a painfully believable and desperately compelling view on its geographic context (Iran), but does so from a fresh and lively angle, and without bombarding the viewer with unnecessary or excessive socio-political pleas. Such a film is My Tehran for Sale, a masterful piece of film-making made all the more commendable through its refusal to be anything apart from what it is - a portrait of a particular niche within a largely misunderstood culture and misrepresented way of life.

Director Granaz Moussavi, who has admitted in interviews to the film being a patchwork of incidents partially fictional and partially autobiographical or real, brings an astonishing authenticity to her feature film debut. Using gritty, faded visual filters and lively, largely hand-held cameras, Moussavi's film carries an unmistakable documentary feel, making the subject matter of her film fume with even more urgent realism and credibility. But, what makes the film particularly interesting is Moussavi's chosen perspective, centring her narrative around a young performance artist (Marzieh Vafamehr), informed by traditions, yet struggling to articulate an independent identity in the midst of cultural challenges. By way of its protagonist - not only young, but far from destitute, unlike many such character studies - Moussavi's film harnesses a unique energy and life, making the work as a whole all the more engrossing.

Moussavi herself positions herself with a bravely detached directorial stance, choosing to simply present the time, place and context, and allow her story to unfold, without allowing narratorial biases to skew the viewer's take on the subject matter presented. Neither condoning the social and political structure or Iran nor disproving of it, Moussavi simply allows her story to speak for itself, with several deliberately ambiguous points, forcing the viewer to engage with the narrative and draw their own conclusions and stances. Nonetheless, a detached directorial stance need not equate to a work devoid of feeling, as Moussavi's film is anything but, delivering an emotional yield both ferociously outraged and quietly contemplative without delving too far into either extreme. However, Moussavi is equally willing to counterbalance her serious subject matter with welcome moments of life, heart and humour which provide welcome context and preventing the overall viewing experience from becoming too heavy. Nonetheless, the film's most singularly impressive aspect is its treatment of the titular city, shot impressively on location with simple yet phenomenally skilled cinematography. Through the impassive cinematic eye of Moussavi, Tehran is illuminated with a visceral and undeniably gorgeous pulse, capturing each street corner, crowded highway and underground pocket of cultural resistance with an abiding urgency and channelling its rhythm, energy and aesthetic with a near peerless insight.

Moussavi's performers, mostly non-actors, also deliver a vivid realism and simmering passion to the piece. In a highly complex and demanding role, Marzieh Vafamehr is flat out superb as a performance artist struggling with more than her fair share of adversity, showing an uncanny ability for commanding the screen without an ounce of showy grabs at easy emotion or sympathy. It is near impossible to imagine, for all of Moussavi's incredible command of the cinematic form, the film having any trace of its power and poignancy without Vafamehr's stunning performance. Despite a complete lack of acting experience (in real life, he is employed as a medical doctor), Amir Chegini supplies ample support to Vafamehr's emotional centrepiece as her Australian-schooled fiancé, carefully crafting a character hard to fully warm to but harder still to dismiss in any way - a remarkable study in balance and character cohesion.

In turns intriguing, troublesome, heartwarming and incredibly difficult to watch, My Tehran for Sale marks an ingenious examination of a way of life, and talents to watch in Moussavi and Vafamehr. Powerful and thought-provoking without making hackneyed ploys for easy or misguided sentiment, Moussavi's film should be considered near essential viewing for any with an interest in Iran or simply in compelling cinema.

-9/10

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