‘Tehran Taboo’ Uses Animation to Explore Iranian Culture’s Sexual Double-Standard

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Ali Soozandeh explores Persian culture’s post-Revolution sexual double standard using Tehran, Iran as it’s backdrop in this multi-layered story. Distributed by Kino Lorber, Tehran Taboo premiered at Cannes’ Critics’ Week just prior to entering the Annecy International ANimated Film Festival.

Tehran TabooSoozandeh, who has been in living in exile in Germany used animation as a way not only to address these taboos, but also as an alternative to not being able to film in Tehran. Using Rotoscope Animation, Tehran Taboo weaves a story of sexuality and moral ambiguity through the eyes of four distinct women, each with their own issues of infidelity, chastity and miscarriages.

The film begins in a snow storm in Tehran with a prostitute named Pari negotiating a price for her services while her mute son, Elias, is in the back seat. The “John” who is receiving oral sex has no problem with the situation until he sees his daughter holding hands with a young man and loses his mind over the shame it could bring to the family.

Pari seeks a divorce from her imprisoned, drug addicted husband who pimps her out. As she’s getting her papers in order with the court, you hear a mother arguing with the Revolutionary Court about her daughter being raped in her search for justice. The guard tells her she has two options for the daughter, have her marry the rapist or spend life in prison. Unfortunately, Pari is shunned for not receiving authorization from her husband but then propositioned by the mullah (Islamic cleric) in order to help her out, causing her to begrudgingly accept his offer.

Surprisingly, it only mentions Nikah Mut’ah or Sigheh in passing, which is a type of short term marriage where men are allowed to take a bride for an arranged amount of time from an hour to a few years. After the marriage contract is dissolved, the woman must go through an iddah, a period of abstinence and avoid remarrying again during that time frame.

Pari, Elias and Sara in a Restaurant

Tehran Taboo deals with various hypocrisies of theocratic states, and the search for freedom in an oppressive society, all-the-while seeking individuality in the hopes of living without being judged every second of one’s life. In fact, as powerful as Persepolis was 10 years ago, Tehran Taboo shows how little has changed in nearly four decades since the Iranian Revolution.

Although, the subjects discussed in this film can be a hard watch for some, these situations do exist throughout the world. Tehran Taboo shows how lies, secrets and cover ups can be Hell on one’s soul.

Opening dates of Tehran Taboo:

Friday, March 2nd at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, CA.

Friday, March 9th at Laemmle’s Town Center 5 and Music Hall 3 in Los Angeles, CA.

Tehran Taboo
  • Overall Score

The Verdict

Tehran Taboo weaves a story of sexuality and moral ambiguity. It shows Iranian culture in a way western eyes are not accustomed to and the secrets that are held by many Iranians living in Iran.


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