Saturday, 23 April 2016

RAVING IRAN - HOT DOCS 2016 Review By Greg Klymkiw - Iranian House DJs Risk Death

To Rave Or Not To Rave?
To Die Or Not To Die?
Choices Galore for House DJs in Iran!

Raving Iran (2016)
Dir. Susanne Regina Meures

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The genuinely brilliant House DJs Anoosh and Arash create the kind of heavenly pulse-pounding sounds which raise the level of rave music to interstellar heights. The commitment they bring to their artistry is beyond obsessive which, is probably a good thing given the hypnotic beats they etch aurally like a kind of Jackson Pollock x2 on a mixing board. Then again, obsession amidst repression seems to be a life-skill that Iranian artists must have hardwired into their very DNA.

Anoosh and Arash should be stars.

And in a sense, they are, but their celebrity remains deep in the underbelly of the rave scene in Tehran, Iran. To be public in a country that views their music as unholy enough to warrant prison, torture and death is tantamount to suicide. Even working underground is enough to flirt with the aforementioned indignities of pain and eradication.

It's a wonder, then, that filmmaker Susanne Regina Meures captured their harrowing story using hidden cel phone cameras and other surreptitious means to chart an important story of creation under attack.

Given the means of production, the film is raw, ragged and grainy. This seldom detracts from one's appreciation for the picture and does, in fact, contribute to the mix of the artists' creative energy with the frustrating, maddening and often downright terrifying risks they and their fans undertake.

Iranian House DJs Anoosh and Arash risk the
wrath of Allah's self-proclaimed gatekeepers.
Allah, though, would love their music and artistry.
All around them we see armed police and willie-inducing checkpoints. Dark alleys in circuitous labyrinthine back streets and deep, dungeon-like basements are their domain - where, like the undead, all rise with the setting of the sun and scurry into their coffins with its rising. Better they should scurry into them of their own volition than risk being blasted into them from the end of an Iranian peacekeeper's gun.

The film gives us a rare insider's view of the creative process, the raves themselves and the frustrating lengths Anoosh and Arash must go in order to manufacture their album. When they're invited to the largest, most prestigious House Music Festival in the world in Switzerland, dangerous, heartbreaking decisions await them.

In Iran, making a decision might be DEADLY.
From staging a massive secret rave in the desert to the chillingly suspenseful process of leaving Iran, filmmaker Meures is with them all the way.

And so are we.

Such are the joys and sadness cinema can create. When they reflect life, as in this brave, bold documentary, it's all the more edifying.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-a-half-stars

Raving Iran makes its International Premiere at Hot Docs 2016