Tehran Taboo uses rotoscope animation to tell the story of four people unable to have choice in their lives due to the religious and social limitations of modern day Iran.
Sara (Zahra Amir Ebrahimi) is newly pregnant and lives in an apartment with her husband and his parents. She wants to work as a teacher but needs her husband’s permission. Pari (Elmira Rafizadeh) moves in upstairs with her son Elias. She says she is a nurse working shifts but she is actually a prostitute who leaves her son outside with a stick of gum while she keeps her appointments. Babak (Arash Marandi) is a musician whose electronic music is not allowed by the authorities. He hooks up with a girl, Donya (Negar Mona Alizadeh), at a nightclub and then must deal with the ramifications of her losing her virginity a week before her wedding.
With each scene, and as the characters cross paths, we see the oppressive limitations they each experience. It is especially dangerous for the three women, who rely so much on the good will and protection of the men in their lives. For all, their safety is precarious and one misstep can lead to censure, imprisonment or execution.
The rotoscope technique, where live action is painted over frame by frame, allows for realistic characters and action but softens the blow of some confronting scenes. The director, Ali Soozandeh, lives now in Germany so can be more overt in his critique of Iran than other Iranian directors. The message is bleak, with the moments of connection always predicated on prioritising personal need over humanity.
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