Sounds of Tehran is a portrait of modern day Tehran told through the sounds and stories of Nesa Azadikhah, a 34-year-old DJ, producer and founder of Deep House Tehran, a community platform at the forefront of Iran’s burgeoning underground electronic music culture. She started DJing as a teenager, before moving onto making her own tracks and then sound art — twisting and tweaking recordings of Tehran to form intriguing new creations. Directed and produced by Victoria Fiore and Aleksandra Bilic, the documentary captures Nesa’s experiences in the creative world, as well as the way she navigates her city.
The film came about through a combination of the filmmaker’s passions — Victoria’s interest in subliminal messaging through sound and Aleksandra’s desire to tell underrepresented and untold female stories. It was really important for the women to avoid the Western gaze that so much journalism and documentary-making about Iran falls victim to.
“We both come from places (Naples and Bosnia) that have been misrepresented” Victoria says. “You can't really compare situations, but it offers you a sensitivity in terms of perspective. We were constantly trying to check in with Nesa and the local producers about the gaze that was being used and whether they were happy with it.”
Aleksandra agrees. “I have such a disdain for the Western gaze, so in some ways it was very easy to avoid. But at the same time you always have that question — who are you to make a film about somewhere where you're not from? I think your whole process has to be very open and honest, and you do make mistakes and have to ask questions. It took nearly two years to make this film, and a lot of that was learning and trying and failing.”
Tehran is a city that defies expectations. It is a place that cannot be openly described by its inhabitants, but can be deeply felt. It is also a place in which certain forms of expression, especially for women, are prohibited and censored. Using the vehicle of music and sounds, the film provides an experiential insight into a misunderstood city and way of life.