Synopsis by Mark Deming
Most North Americans can be forgiven for not being aware than Iran has a tradition of topical humor. However, as political unrest in Iran increasingly polarizes its people and its leadership, satire is becoming one of the victims in the nation's cultural war. Tehran's Nasr Theater was long home to a comedy troupe called Siah Bâzi, or "the joy makers," in which a handful of actors in broad makeup and costumes would act out skits poking metaphorical fun at the tribulations of Iranian life and the current political scene. Using time-honored comic personae in a manner not unlike that of American vaudeville or burlesque, the Siah Bâzi had been part of life in Tehran for years -- until the increasingly strict Iranian government ordered their theater shuttered. As the members of the Nasr Theater company wonder what to do next, they also find themselves wondering what will become of a nation where rage and sorrow are common, but laughter is forbidden. Siah Bâzi: The Joy Makers received its North American premiere at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.