Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Tehran for Sale (2009) (تهران من حراج)

Director: Granaz Mousavi. Cast: Marzieh Vafamehr, Amir Chegini, Asha Mehrabi. 96 min. Australia/Iran. Drama.

Filmed in Tehran but produced in Australia, this is a very common snapshot from a third world country, most unfamiliar to a western viewer's eyes. A female representative of Iran's intellectual community is both outcast by her own family, and crushed under the laws of a theocratic regime -and the sad part is ... she can't even leave the country. As she screams into the Tehran horizon, while the call to prayers is heard from the city's minarets in the background, you may find yourself in tears at how an entire well-educated, culturally-hip generation is doomed to plunge into oblivion.

PS: The female lead, Marzieh Vafamehr, was incarcerated in Iran for appearing here with her shaved hair uncovered.

Update: Check out the first comment.

Mo says:


  1. A friend and reader from Iran tried to place a comment under this entry, but found this simple task impossible, even after accessing the blog using multiple anti-filters. She asked me to post her comment instead. The irony, and how it proves the same film's message, is remarkable:

    Farzaneh said ...

    "It seems some of Iranian writers and filmmakers have recently found the courage to deal with the problem of tough restrictions on making such a meaningful and dark works.
    I was impressed a lot by her performance especially in the second half."

  2. Alireza said ...

    I actually didnt like the movie,
    what bothered me was showing that all the persumed intelectuals of Iran are sexoholics, drug addicts that are interested in unusual aspects of art and literature and end up with STDs that will ruin their lives.
    All people who have left Iran for better life end up loosers who desperately return for some help. Come on how many times IRIB has tried to inject this idea. Why cant we see ONCE a succesful Iranian in the west, or someone who tries to leave the country NOT a drug addict or a wierd person trying to leave for professional success or higher education. Nobody Normal and intelligent ever leave Iran? All intelectuals of Iran have to take X to get high and smoke opium to relax? there is nobody who plays some BACH or Motzart on the piano for relaxation?
    I am fed up with trying to alienate the intelectuals of Iran from the normal people showing them VERY DIFFERENT. This chick was FULL of conflict came from a very traditional family and tried to act like an intellectual. I saw nothing intelectual about her except pretending to be different and getting sunk into peer pressure, dressing different, talking different, how many intelligent women in Iran we know who act like that?
    One scene that made a lot of sence to me was "eshgo hallat ro kardi HIVish ro bara ma ovordi". sorry to say that but an intelligent women doesnt know how to practice SAFE SEX and they portrate her as the intelectual comunity of Iran? I dont buy it.
    did you hear the lyrics of the persumed underground rock concert? while the music was really good the lyrics were total bull shit? like if it is not wiered and unusual the intellectuals of Iran have no interest in it?
    I agree that her acting was very good and the scene that she screams was very good but the movie in my opinion was really bad.

  3. Dear Alireza,

    You bring up some good points. There probably is a backstory to why this film shows Iranian intellectuals as such. As you noticed, the movie was shot in Iran - which means it was approved by Iran's "Ministry of Islamic Guidance" to be shot in Tehran. In other words, probably the reason the Islamic Republic initially approved it, was because the film creates such a picture of intellectuals.

    But are Iranian intellectuals truly like this? There's probably two answers to this:

    One (an answer probably the director can say in his own defense) is that the movie is not picturing Iran's entire intellectual community. It's only picturing the intellectuals the director or screenwriter has been in contact with.

    The other answer (probably closer to the truth) is that since you and I left Iran more than ten years ago, Iran's cultural and social arena has changed tremendously, and I can't say the intellectual community wasn't affected by these huge changes.

    My own answer is: I really don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is how low the Iranians intellectual community has gone. Maybe friends who are in Iran or recently came back from there could offer a better answer.

  4. Alireza said ...

    Mohsen Jan
    your point well taken, but even if you are right, and my imagination of new iranian intelectuals is wrong (which I dont think so because I go back every year) and this is the new intelectuals of Iran, I still dont like the persona of SAMAN, in the movie.
    ALL movies ever made in Iran show Iranians who have left Iran coming back as loosers. People who have not achieved ANYTHING in the west and have lost everything and now are desparate coming back to "aghoosh garm vatan".(home sweet home)
    what IRIB loves to show.
    At least you and me know this part is not true. there are at least 3-4 top engineers of NASA from Iran. Chairmen of YALE's internal Medcine departmen and Optomology department are Iranian.
    in every single big university, medical school etc, you can easily find a succesful Iranian a department chair, an attending, a top executive. The owner of Ebay is Iranian, the top executive officer of google Is Iranian. How many Iranians do we know that are SO Succesful academically, professionally or financially? look at our classmates who left Iran, they have ALL (not even a single failure) end up in good residency, fellowships and are well educated doctors and succesful physicians.
    In fact recent studies shows that after Indians Iranians are the second most succesful immigrant society in the US (at least financially). Why are always Iranians who left the country pictured as LOOSERS?
    I think you already answered it because this movie WAS approved by Islamic republic government and that is why they want to picture Immigrant Iranians.
    I think this movie was nothing but Islamic repulics propoganda. telling the IRANIANS (not the outside world) that all the people who want change in Iran (ie. intelectuals, green movement supporters) are nothing but wierdos who smoke opium, Pop XTC drink alchohol and have sex with each other all the time and god punishes them with AIDS. they all listen to bull shit music and lyrics and like wierd theaters that nobody can understand and not even ONE has a real family (not even a single succesful marriage was seen in this movie). It was basically saying people who LEAVE Iran or want to change Iran dont belong to Iran and Iranian community or Iranian culture to begin with, and this is what I hated about this movie.

  5. Dear Mohsen:
    As I said before, I got confused from the movie and then hesitated to write here because of all controversies which made in my mind and you both mentioned to the most very well.Then I didn’t realize at first how I feel about it! I like it or not ?
    You know , I think filmmaker described some facts and events perfectly and honestly , but like others filmmakers went to the extreme. And more important ,unwanted or intentionally ( in order to get permission for making in Iran )pointed out some items that has been always Islamic republic taste and meant, like HIV positive …I didn’t like that concept when i watched the movie and it was negative point to me because i don’t know why anybody who is breaking taboo or seems super- open- mind or even addicted or even living as a prostitute in Present Islamic Iran should get Aids at the some part or end of story ?? believe me it was really a cliché! Actually it was not needed to be included in the story and should be replaced by another new idea or at least less cliché.
    ….or another point that some girls like Marzieh almost should be raised in traditional -religious family ?How prevalent this is ? As a matter of fact, it’s not really common.
    I agree with Ali’s point that any immigrant in Iranian movie is introduced as a loser like Saman or even Marzie , who wasn’t lucky enough ,at least in her hard refuge and constantly was questioned by an unkind and tough officer for 2 years …all of this state the negative general aspect of immigration and that is what our government always wants!
    But from another point , the movie showed some truth about new generation which you beautifully aimed the target in 2 question and your answer, that” new generation is very different from us
    “. I didn’t get surprised of kind of Party and the way the young smoke or drink or sleeping with each other…grass and alcohol and smoking and open and free relation in such parties is very usual todays. I ‘ have seen seen in my close family’s young and their friends and other guys around are behaving very different ,such differences is very obvious and prominent ., especially in Artistic social class and particularly in some type of that like Modern art , the young try to be or pretend to live in another way and are interested in coming closer to the other culture they have dream about that ….They are struggle to find an escape-way from all existing limitation and restriction , which is totally different from medical students of 15 years ago , even those cool and artistic intellectual guys.Then I had no problem with reality of the group filmmaker selected and their manner and behaviors, however, I agree this is not representative of all intellectuals in our society. Of course filmmaker introduced it as a main present generation in her interview with Sh. Aghdashloo.
    The music in the movie is from very popular singer , Mohsen Namjoo for such weird style of rap among the young.
    Did you notice the Framarz Aslani famous song (Age ye rooz bery safar ) in that big party which was played with guitar by one of guys? What a strange coincidence?!!)
    Also the violent way of Bassij in attacking to Janitor and his Afghan family, to the party , the way of punishment of young by lashing , closing such modern art by government ,caused her final disappointment about her country , is not strange in Iran at all! And beautiful showing of her feeling while she was leaving, beautiful close up of sitting on the staircase at home or that truck among box of Zam Zam was really impressive and brought tear to my eye…overall Marzie Vafamehr did great job in this performance . Also her friend as supporting actress was really good and affective.
    To sum up, after I finished the movie , I didn’t surprised why the movie was allowed to be made. apparently,although it own some forbidden scenes but in deep look , It does have some item to be accepted by those gentlemen!

  6. Ali jan and Maryam jan,

    Thank you for offering your viewpoints.

    Actually, I can imagine people from traditional/religious families going the exact opposite ways. I have seen this in sons of clerics/mullahs. I guess the more extreme the traditional pressure is, the more rebellious the next generation becomes.

    And thanks for posting the interview. As you said, the director is very adamant that she is showing a true picture of the "modern" Iranian community. She also says she hates movies showing the Iranians being victimized, while that's exactly what she's doing in her own movie: her film's heroine is the pure victim of her society, and has no choice but to suffer.

    PS: I noticed that party scene, with the Aslani song! Unbelievable! First I thought someone had stolen our material, but then I remembered what Coppola once said: that you should be proud if someone is nurturing from the artistic environment you have created.

    Or maybe the way Jennifer Connelly accidentally shows up at the end of a pier in multiple movies, is a more optimistic way of looking at it: maybe both us and this film's director/screenwriter have been feeding from the same "artistic ether". Quite poetic.

  7. Diane said ...

    Perhaps my answer to critics of this movie is best described by a quote of Joseph Conrad: "My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand; and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask."

    That is how I see this movie. One has to look at this meaningful movie through the smoke screen, and see true meaning. There are so many small clues there if you stop and notice them: underground meetings, picture of Che Guevara, (revolution), little girl running with camera (eyes to the world). How about when Saman is sitting for far too long and looking on that old man and a boy running around? What those that tell you? And that scream on that mountain, it's like she is screaming also to the world for help. I don't see this movie as an affront to the intellectual community. I see this girl as Iran, enslaved by the regime, uses by everyone, inflicted by a slow death with no way out. I agree with Farzaneh - writers, film makers and actors found courage to show this movie to the world.