Exposing the hypocrisy & double standards of men, especially when it comes to matters of sex, Tehran Taboo captures how patriarchy plays an important role in subduing almost every aspect of women’s lives and how religion is nothing but a charade used by people to impose their close-minded beliefs.

Tehran Taboo interweaves three storylines. The first follows a prostitute trying to earn a living to raise her kid. The second concerns her pregnant neighbor who is seeking work against her husband’s wishes. And third subplot is about an aspiring musician whose latest sexual encounter results in an unexpected problem.

Written & directed by Ali Soozandeh, the film employs rotoscoping animation technique to bring its tale to life as filming in real locations would’ve been a high-risk endeavor. But the director succeeds in painting a gripping portrait of life in contemporary Iran where the path to freedom & happiness involves breaking societal taboos on a daily basis.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

Although the characters are believable and their predicament is relatable, the film is more interested in the bigger issues than their individual lives. It attacks these existing norms in a blunt fashion, questioning its relevance in today’s world, and is unfazed in its depiction of sex, adultery, corruption, prostitution & sex coexisting within a stern religious system.

Combining live-action with animation, the rotoscoping process gives the images a rich, lifelike appearance, which is all the more uplifted by fluid camerawork & apt lighting. Coming to the performances, everyone chips in with fabulous inputs but it’s Elmira Rafizadeh who leaves the most lasting impression with her wonderfully layered & expertly rendered act.

While the strict, restrictive & regressive Islamic setting does magnify the unfair treatment of women in a society such as this, the narrow minded thinking isn’t exclusive to this particular demographic, for it has its origins in the patriarchal hierarchy that allows the men in power to dictate how women should live their lives and what roles they must play.

Religion comes into this as another added layer of conformity, acting as a weapon to further exploit people by keeping their desires in check while serving as a dead end to discussions that challenge these age-old beliefs. Soozandeh also lays bare the hypocrisy surrounding sex in conservative society, showing religion to be the first thing to go when it comes to pleasures of the flesh.

On an overall scale, Tehran Taboo is a brilliantly directed, beautifully animated & strongly acted cinema that explores sexual & gender double standards in modern Iran, resulting from its strict religious codes, and is a cry for a long overdue social, cultural & political change. An essential viewing that deserves a broader audience, Tehran Taboo is heavy-handed at times but its thought-provoking themes strike a chord that transcends borders. Definitely recommended.



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