Iran: World premiere of film about music censorship in Iran

The documentary film on government censorship of music in Iran, ‘Sounds of Silence – Underground Music in Tehran’, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, New York, on 26 April 2006

The documentary film by Amir Hamz and Mark Lazarz surveys Tehran’s rock and hip-hop scene, driven underground by a stultifying system of strict oversight and censorship from Ershad, the government’s Ministry of Islamic Guidance. It provides a street-level view of Iranian musicians struggling for self-expression.

Since the Revolution in Iran in 1979, the government 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. The artists are increasingly turning to the Internet 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 Ershad’s censorship denies them.

Susan Dunne, staff writer at, writes in her review of the film:
“The web, as it turns out, could prove to be the salvation of the bands in ‘Sounds of Silence’. A music documentary with subtitles might be a hard sell for distributors. But even if the film never screens in Hartford, Iranian rock and hip-hop can still be heard. Just go to, and start downloading MP3s. There are dozens, and all free.”

Photos and quotes from the film ‘Sounds of Silence’     


Rejection is the norm

To get approval for a concert or album release, bands have to submit both their music and lyrics to government boards dominated by middle-aged judges who don’t get along. Rejection is the norm. Not allowed are unsuitable words, grammatical errors, solo female singers, shaved heads, “unsuitable” personal grooming, “superfluous” stage movements, too much reliance on electric guitars, or lyrics that declare love for anyone but Allah. That, and the country’s lack of nightclubs, result in hundreds of frustrated musicians with nowhere to play. They have come to rely on the Internet, by which Iran’s emerging bands are developing an international fan base.

‘Sounds of Silence’ (2006)
Directed By: Amir Hamz and Mark Lazarz
97 minutes

Photo from the film ‘Sounds of Silence’     



Photo from the film ‘Sounds of Silence’


About the directors

Amir Hamz
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.

Mark Lazarz
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.


Film website:




Tribeca Film Festival:
Info page on ‘Sounds of Silence’

Watch excerpt of ‘Sounds of Silence’: – trailer


In These Times – 18 December 2007:
‘Rocking Lolita in Tehran’ – 4 May 2006:

‘Silent Sounds From Two Subcultures’ – 3 May 2006:

Tribeca Review: Sounds of Silence

Listen to banned Iranian music:

TehranAvenue Music Festival:
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