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in persophilia| portraits| stardust

GoogooshWas I the last person to find out that the Iranian pop diva Googoosh is making a comeback and living in the United States and Canada now? I have painted her portrait in honor of this exciting news. There are all sorts of delectable websites devoted to Googoosh, including her own, official site, and Googoosh TV which includes loads of MP3s.

I first learned about Googoosh about six years ago, when I saw a terrible documentary about her. The film was focused on post-Revolution suppression of her voice and, more importantly, the filmmaker’s obsession with Googoosh as an absent presence and a pop icon. He was unable to or not allowed to interview Googoosh for the film, so the whole thing ends up being about her absence and her silence, only not in a way that could be described as interesting or artistic. The overall effort reminded me of a translation of a Marathi short story I read years ago by Vilas Sarang, in which a historian takes a tape recorder around to all the Indian monuments and ‘records the silences’ of the historical sites.

The Googoosh documentary seems to now be available on DVD. I think this is the same one I saw, though from the Amazon reviews it is, as always, hard to tell whether something is bad or good. Highlights include:

-This film is an insult to Googoosh and to filmmaking.

-I will send this movie back to you and I demand a full refund. Unfortunately I cannot be compensated for the three hours I spent watching this drible.

-This TOUR-DE-FORCE documentary about pop-singer Googoosh miraculously and ingeniously takes on Iranian history, religion, gender politics, and mass culture.

-This unconventional documentary of the singer’s life could easily have been hamstrung by the fact that while the film was being made, Googoosh was forbidden to talk to its director, American-Iranian Farhad Zamani. Yet somehow he brilliantly turns her enforced silence to advantage, compellingly creating what he describes as the “presence of an absence” through images, silences, archive footage, subtitles over blacked-out screen, and interviews with friends, family, and fans.

-If we give the content to a professional editor and producer they probably can make a good 45min documentary out of the whole 150min repeated content so if you are familiar with home video editing it worth buying the DVD and editing it yourself!

The film was in fact ‘hamstrung’ by the complete absence of Googoosh. I came away wondering what she looked like and what her music sounded like. That’s how I became a fan, so maybe it was worth something. But apparently, right around the time that the documentary was released 2000, Googoosh was finally granted a passport by the Iranian government, allowing her to travel outside the country and perform. Since then she has recorded a couple of new albums and has even settled down in Tehrangeles. Perhaps Mr. Zamani should now re-edit his film to make her absent presence present.

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