"Graffiti is an absolute crime," street artist CK1, face obscured by a black-and-white geometric mask, explains in the trailer for "Mutiny of Colours."
The documentary, still in progress and currently raising funds on IndieGogo, follows Iranian street artists spreading freedom, expression and love through visually striking and politically charged graphic imagery. Directed by Zeinab Tabrizy and Paliz Khoshdel, the film is mostly told through the perspectives of the street artists themselves, each sharing his or her experiences making art and dealing with the consequences.
"Here in Iran," a masked street artist explains, "if they arrest you when you've finished painting on the wall, they'll consider you are supporting Western culture or Satanism! What we do is totally different. Our themes include children's rights, peace, friendship. It's not what the government thinks."
The film focuses on five artists, each bringing a unique perspective and vision to the walls and streets of the city. There's CK1, whose work takes an anti-war stance and incorporates elements of Iranian literature, and Omet, who incorporates nostalgia and childhood themes. Brothers Icy and Sot, two of the most iconic names in the Iranian street art game, create images promoting peace and friendship. The final episode follows Lady Green, who compares illegal graffiti to government sanctioned murals, also analyzing the influence of graffiti in Iran's 1979 revolution and 2009 Green Movement.
The artists all speak to the camera wearing masks, to prevent Iranian intelligence forces from locating and arresting them. "You can't stay calm while doing street art," CK1 continues. "You can't even get out of the home comfortably. You always think someone is watching you. Or someone is controlling you. You get paranoia!"
Apart from the five artists leading the conversation, the film touches on the work of a number of anonymous artists making Iran their living canvas. There's Black Hand, dubbed Iran's Banksy, whose work comments on sexism and the legal trade of human organs in the Middle East.
As the artist explained in an interview with The Guardian: "I chose street art because I want to guard against the galleries’ monopoly. Our intellectual and artistic society are underestimating and ignoring ordinary people’s power ... I prefer my work to be seen in public by the very same people who are not taken seriously enough. I feel that the walls in my city are the canvas for my paintings. The city is the biggest gallery with the biggest audience."
Another featured artist, known as The Joker, defaces existing graffiti and stencil art by applying that signature, terrifying Joker smile -- yes, the Heath Ledger one -- and a scribbled signature. Many are baffled by not only who this roguish artist is but how he moves so quickly.
I spoke with filmmaker Tabrizy about the process of making the film and all the artists involved. She sent images of work from 12 artists crucial to the world of Iranian street art, emphasizing that little is known about many of the artists due to the conditions under which they work. Thus, the images, loud and bright and full of defiance and hope, speak for themselves.
Below, check out the work of 12 Iranian street artists and collectives. And head to the "Mutiny of Colours" IndieGogo page to learn more and donate to the cause.
1. Geo & Mr. Killuminati
2. Black Hand
11. Wormbrain & Blind
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