Review: ‘Tehran Taboo’ Exposes Double Standards About Sex in Iran

Review: ‘Tehran Taboo’ Exposes Double Standards About Sex in Iran


From left, Hasan Ali Mete, Elmira Rafizadeh and Bilal Yasar in “Tehran Taboo,” directed by Ali Soozandeh.

Kino Lorber

“Tehran Taboo” gains much of its power from its use of rotoscoping, a form of animation (familiar to viewers of “Waking Life” and “Tower”) in which the drawing is done over filmed actors. What is provocative about the technique here is that it’s a sort of workaround — a way for the director, Ali Soozandeh, who grew up in Iran and now lives in Germany, to tell a story that he says would have been impossible to film in Tehran.

An ensemble piece (and European production, despite the Persian dialogue), the movie lays bare the double standards that surround sex in Iran. Its confrontational quality is established in the opening scene: A driver picks up a prostitute who is turning tricks with her young son in tow — and moments later expresses horror when he spots a man holding hands with his daughter.


Trailer: ‘Tehran Taboo’

A preview of the film.

By KINO LORBER on Publish Date January 30, 2018.


Pari (Elmira Rafizadeh), the prostitute, needs a judge (Hasan Ali Mete) to sign her divorce papers. She lives in an apartment he owns and trades sex for his influence, which later helps ensure her son’s enrollment at school.

One of Pari’s neighbors is Sara (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), who is uneasy about her latest pregnancy and also wants to take a job, which she can’t do without her husband’s permission. The other principal thread concerns a musician, Babak (Arash Marandi), who, after a nightclub tryst with Donya (Negar Mona Alizadeh), has a week to pay for an unsanitary quack doctor with a hacking cough to restore the appearance of her virginity.

Subtlety and aesthetic elegance — the jerky animation complements the blunt tone — are not among the film’s virtues. “Tehran Taboo” aims to expose systemic hypocrisy; in that respect, it is brisk and bracing.

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