Run Time: 105 min


Wed, Oct 12th, 6:30 PM


6:30 PM

CIRCUMSTANCE is a trailblazing feature film that explores gay life in modern Iran, a country where homosexuality doesn’t exist according to the country’s current hard-line president.

Therein lies the tension for this sumptuous film, the Audience Award winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Iranian-American writer-filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz’s debut gives us more than a glimpse of an Iran rarely witnessed by outsiders: an exhilarating but underground realm of illicit parties where young hipsters risk everything as they experiment with sex, drugs and defiance.

CIRCUMSTANCE tells the story of two Iranian teenage girls, Atafeh and Shireen. 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 they face interference from a brother who joins the religious police. Beneath their headscarves and long overcoats, heroines Shireen and Atafeh often wear sexy dresses and high heels. The film is punctuated by numerous lyrical images of fingers touching and intertwined.

It is worth noting that the film’s lesbian subject matter isn’t the only controversial element here. In fact, the film violates many cinematic practices common to the Muslim world. Women’s hair is uncovered, and both nudity and sex are depicted. The latter comes most notably in an exhilarating fantasy sequence in which the women imagine themselves in an amorous tryst in a Dubai hotel room. While CIRCUMSTANCE wasn’t filmed on-location in Tehran (it was filmed in Beirut instead) it’s nevertheless a fascinating depiction of life among the young and the well-to-do in present-day Iran. — David Alire Garcia


2011 SW Gay & Lesbian Film Festival