By Don Simpson | January 15, 2011
Director: Granaz Moussavi
Writer: Granaz Moussavi
Starring: Marzieh Vafamehr, Amir Chegini, Asha Mehrabi, Mobina Karimi, Sandy Cameron
Marzieh (Marzieh Vafamehr) is a young female actress and fashion designer living in Tehran, but as an Iranian she is forced to lead a secret life in order to express herself artistically. She has immersed herself in Tehran’s thriving underground arts scene, where she and her cohorts live under the constant threat of government intervention and punishment.
At an illegal rave party, Marzieh meets Saman (Amir Chegini), an Iranian-born Australian citizen. Saman offers to bring Marzieh to Australia with him and she accepts, but the question remains whether or not Australia will accept her.
Much of the non-linear narrative is told in flashback; the pieces slowly falling into place linking the present to the past – the present being an Australian prison cell in which a haggard Marzieh is incarcerated. So, yes, we do know that things do not work out very well for Marzieh in the end; she does make it to Australia but enjoys even less freedom there than she did in Tehran.
Shot guerrilla-style (by director of photography Bonnie Elliott) entirely in Tehran in July and August 2008, Iranian writer-director Granaz Moussavi’s (who immigrated to Australia with her parents in 1997) lush and hypnotic My Tehran For Sale focuses on the vibrant urban middle class of Tehran – a side of Iran that the U.S. rarely sees. My Tehran For Sale is a tale of a cultural demographic’s struggle for artistic and personal freedom while also dealing with the fear-mongering immigration policies of Western nations. Avoiding the risk of any spoilers, I will just say that cultural perceptions of AIDS are also discussed. Above all, Marzieh is as strong and positive of a female character as I have seen projected onto the silver screen; portrayed with unbridled naturalism and never martyrized, she is a role model not just to Iranians, or to women, but to us all.
Moussavi explains in her director’s statement that My Tehran for Sale is a story of her generation: “the story of a life of double standards, contrasting lessons at home and in school, a life of lies and pretence, fear, and seeking shelter as soon as you step out of your home to enter the world.” Moussavi also sites Vafamehr’s real-life struggle to survive as an actress in Iran “under circumstances that threaten her morals, principals, and viewpoints as an artist and as a woman.”
Most of the 35mm film equipment is controlled by the Iranian government, so Moussavi opted for a digital format which also allowed for the producers to keep the footage hidden from Iranian authorities. Each day the footage was downloaded into Final Cut Pro and two sets of backups were saved onto hard drives, stored in different locations in case one set was discovered by the authorities. At the end of the production, the footage was taken to Australia on three hard drives packed away in backpacks worn by the producers. To understand the risks of this production even better, we just need to turn to the recent imprisonment of Iranian director Jafar Panahi.
What is most amazing about recent Iranian productions such as My Tehran for Sale, No One Knows About Persian Cats and Dog Sweat is that they are all such phenomenal films. Blood, sweat and tears — and above all, fear — went into these three productions; and I have absolutely no qualms about these films getting any additional publicity just because Iran is such a hot topic right now. These films are deserving of all of the attention that they are receiving; in fact, many more people — especially Americans — need to watch these films. All three films put a human face on young Iranians who live their lives in opposition to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s wishes and they provide us with yet another reason not to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.