– . – Risky Business


Risky Business

While Hollywood stars may worry about being being seen in the right places, it’s a different story for those working far from the freedoms of the West. Here, Iranian actor Ashkan Koshanejad explains why following his dreams could land him in jail.

Even though we’re only three months into 2010, Iranian film No One Knows About Persian Cats is surely a contender for most intriguing title of the year. It pertains to a little-known Iranian law which states that pet dogs and cats cannot be seen out in public; a seemingly illogical piece of jurisdiction that underpins one of the film’s most shocking scenes and eludes to its overall message. Director Bahman Ghobadi’s low budget drama exposes the strict control that his country’s government imposes on every aspect of daily life, using the experiences of two young musicians to highlight just how desperate the situation is. As we follow the pair in their hunt for band members to join them at a London concert-and the visas that will allow them to leave Tehran-it becomes clear that creativity and free expression are simply not permitted by the Iranian regime.

For the film’s star, musician-turned-actor Ashkan Koshanejad—on whose real-life experiences with musician partner Negar Shanghagi the film is based—walking this tightrope between artistic expression and imprisonment is something he has encountered first hand. “I was arrested once in 2007,” he says, still reluctant to talk at length on the subject despite now being based in the UK. “We had a band with my brother, we had this concert and we were put in prison for three weeks. But afterwards we still kept going.”