Shima's Iranian death metal band is a lot like the real-life Confess, who were sentenced to 14.5 years and 74 lashes, but they could face worse brutality if captured-in-performance, because she is a woman. Yet, their drummer wants to narc-out their own concert, in order to become an international cause. It a dangerous gambit, but Shima has reason for agreeing in Farbod Ardebili’s Whattsapp-directed-in-exile short film Forbidden to See Us Scream in Tehran, which screens virtually today at the 2021 Beverly Hills Film Festival.
Shima’s twelve-year-old sister Sherin is deaf, but neither of them has a voice is Islamist Iranian society. Despite increased patrols from the Morality Police, she continues to attend her band’s practice, because that is how she expresses herself. Her family situation is not concretely sketched out, but it is clear she is her sister’s primary emotional support.
When Farzad the drummer suggests they inform on their own gig to generate notoriety (like that of Confess’s case), she instinctively refuses to betray their fans. However, when her terrified sister is harassed by an Islamist misogynist, because some of her hair is showing, Shima changes her mind. She decides she has to get out, in order to get Sherin out. Of course, a plan like this is bound to have complications. Plus, you can never underestimate the brutality of the Morality Police.
is only 19 minutes long, but you will still be hard pressed to see a better screen-lead than Mohadeseh Kharaman’s remarkable turn as Shima. She rages on-stage, but her scenes with deaf thesp Samina Amiri are acutely sensitive. Yet, we can keenly see how the latter fuel the former. Likewise, the innocence and confusion Amiri brings to her portrayal of Sherin seems alarmingly real. Frankly, the performances of Kharaman and Amiri are brave in more ways than one.
Indeed, the entire cast and crew deserves credit for taking on Forbidden, given the themes it addresses. Despite his physical absence, Ardebili guided them all to some fantastic work. It all really hits home hard at the end. Highly recommended for fans of Persian cinema and hardcore metal, as well as anyone who believes in freedom of expression, Forbidden to See Us Scream in Tehran screens today (5/2) (with a seven-day viewing window for “ticket holders”) as part of the BHFF ’21.