An inside look into Tehran's underground music scene, Sounds of Silence offers a street-level view of Iranian musicians struggling for self-expression in the face of strict oversight and censorship from Ershad, the government's Ministry of Islamic Guidance. In a country in which half the population is under 30, it is hardly surprising to find a great demand for music, especially pop music. But since the Revolution, the state has sought to curb the influence of the West in Iranian culture, taking control over everything from lyrics to musical style to the onstage movements of performers, and the solo female singing voice is strictly prohibited in public. Featuring interviews with a host of musicians working in various genres, this documentary shows the incredible frustrations and obstacles that Iranian musicians must contend with, as well as the different ways in which they strive to get their music heard. Seeking to create a unique and distinctive sound, many musicians either combine elements of traditional Iranian music with more Western forms or draw lyrical inspiration from the Iranian literary tradition. But this does not guarantee Ershad approval, and these artists are increasingly turning to the Internet-often without government permission-in order to disseminate their work and engage their audiences. From the alternative-rock band O-Hum to rapper Soroush to trance group Atma, musicians are finding that websites with downloadable songs and videos afford them the exposure that censorship denies them. A compelling look into the relatively obscure world of Iran's fragile pop culture, Sounds of Silence reveals the precarious existence of the artist in a state bent on creating a conservative, traditionalist society.
Born in Germany in 1979, director Amir Hamz received his B.A. from Hamburg in French Literature, North American Studies, and Film Studies. He then moved to London, where he received an M.A. in Mass Communications and Politics. He has worked in film and television since 1999 and has directed various short films. Sounds of Silence is his debut feature documentary. Director Mark Lazarz was born in 1972 in Germany. He moved to London, where he studied Film. He has been working in television, theater, and film since 1992. Like Hamz, his codirector, Lazarz has directed a handful of short films. Sounds of Silence is his debut feature documentary.