"Circumstance" sheds light on gay life in Iran

Wed Aug 24, 2011 8:55am EDT
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By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After Iranian-American filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz made" Circumstance," she knew she would might never be able to return to her homeland again, but that hasn't stopped her from telling the story.

The film, which begins playing in U.S. theaters on Friday after a strong debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival, tells of two Iranian teenage girls who fall in love. But they face interference from a brother who joins the religious police and a government that refuses to acknowledge gay people exist.

"I've seen very few films that address women's sexuality -- in Iran, in the Muslim world, at all," Keshavarz told Reuters. "As much as some people are upset about the film, there are other people who are like, 'Finally! Something that's us!'"

The story and characters are fictional but Keshavarz, who wrote and directed the film, said they are based on real-life experiences among her friends.

The key characters in "Circumstance," Atafeh and Shireen, have grown up like many young women in Tehran. As teens, they dream of a life of adventure, art and culture. They buy foreign DVDs, listen to western music, dance at underground clubs and dream of running away. Eventually, they fall for each other.

But standing between them is a society that will not accept who they are rapidly becoming. That society is embodied in Atafeh's older brother, who was once like them but has returned home from drug "rehab" a more conservative and intolerant man.

The movie follows the girls as they explore their feelings for each other and navigate a society filled with peril.

BREAKING RULES   Continued...

<p>Actresses Nikohl Boosheri (L) and Sarah Kazemy in a scene from the film "Circumstance", August 24, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Rigney Hubbard/Roadside Attractions</p>