Iran is shaped like a cat (vaguely, see here) and Persian cats are enormously popular pets there, yet they must be hidden away from the religious police who would confiscate them. It is therefore safe to say Iranians have a complex relationship with felines, but the makes the title of Los Angeles-based Persian thesp Mary Apick’s first animated short so apt. In thirteen minutes, Iran’s entire post-revolutionary history unfolds in a very symbolic and allegorical fashion in Apick’s The Cat, which releases tomorrow on YouTube.
Despite the Revolutionary government’s emphasis on morals, young street children in Tehran still face great hardships, like the little flower girl of Apick’s film. There is also prostitution and the exploitation that often comes with it, which is represented by the naked women boxed up in the Metropolis-like factory, or so we would assume.
Indeed, there is a lot of interpretive room in The Cat, but the dark corrupting wave that leaves only sludge and rubble in its wake pretty clearly seems to represent the oppressiveness of the current theocratic regime. Also, the graveyard of battered musical instruments certainly reflects their extreme Islamist attitudes towards music in particular and culture in general.
The Cat uses allegory to critique the regime, but in this case, it is not intended to disguise or soften the blow. Tehran remains very recognizable, yet Apick renders the city in a very dystopian manner, in a style almost reminiscent of Daumier. It is a true nightmare-scape through which the little flower girl is constantly running and hiding, in order to survive.
It is frightening, but very distinctive visually. This is a film that really deserves to be seen, especially since it is dedicated to “the people of Iran—and everywhere—who are fighting for freedom and democracy.” Highly recommended, The Cat premieres tomorrow (12/1) on YouTube.