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Friday, August 26, 2011

BANNED: Iran’s Controversial New Lesbian Film - a Review!

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David Ansen, / Aug 25, 2011 12:00 AM EDT.

Circumstance movie

Banned in Iran, a winner at Sundance, Maryam Keshavarz’s film ‘Circumstance’ stunningly captures the love affair of two 16-year-old Iranian girls. She details the film’s troubled gestation to David Ansen.

Maryam Keshavarz's stunning, sensual Circumstance has already been denounced, sight unseen, by the Iranian government, which got wind of it after the movie won the Audience Award at this year's Sundance film festival. The film, set in contemporary Tehran (though shot in Lebanon), will never be released in Iran, though you can be sure pirated DVDs will be a hot item on the black market. The Iranian-American writer and director, 36, who spent her childhood shuttling back and forth between the U.S. and the country of her parent's birth, knew even as she was writing it that making this movie would mean she could never return to Iran. Actually, that's not quite true, she explains with a laugh. "I can go back. I just can't leave."

The first but certainly not the only thing about Circumstance that the Islamic regime objects to is the love story at the center of the movie, between two beautiful, Westernized 16-year-old schoolgirls. Iran is a country, as we all know, where homosexuality doesn't exist—President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said so himself—so to depict a frankly erotic lesbian amour fou is a treasonable fantasy in itself.

Then again, it doesn't take much to break the law in Iran. Listening to pop music will do the trick. Circumstance shows us how anyone who goes against the fundamentalist grain is forced to lead a double life. In public, in the daytime, at school, Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) and Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) cover their hair in scarves and their bodies in drab clothes, rendering them indistinguishable from the other schoolgirls. At night, with their friends, the girls avail themselves of Tehran's many secret underground clubs. With the right password, you go behind a nondescript storefront and enter the city's youthful, strobe-lit counterculture. The girls shed their robes to reveal sparkling minidresses, the coke flows, the dance floor fills, and the party goes deep into the night—if it isn't raided by the self-appointed morality police.

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