Women drive the new film Circumstance—as is surprisingly common in Iranian cinema
Maryam Keshavarz's Circumstance, which hit theaters Friday, depicts an Iran that the American media rarely shows—indeed, an Iran that Iranian media rarely shows.
In Iran, women are only allowed to take their hijabs off indoors, but films are banned from showing this. And yet Circumstance does, as it tells the tale of a teenage lesbian couple struggling to stay together in Tehran.
To get these images, though, Keshavarz had to film in Lebanon, recreating specific Iranian streets—right down to their graffiti—by studying pictures from Facebook. By doing so, she knew would be in danger of arrest if she returned to Iran. Early in the screenwriting process, this weighed on her: "I was afraid of overstepping my boundaries and doing something too political and jeopardizing my ability to go back." But, she adds, "the characters themselves were pushing me to be more honest."
Keshavarz's just the latest in a growing tide of Iranian filmmakers risking life and limb for their craft. What's more, she's part of a growing tide of women filmmakers to do so: Some of the most high-profile movies about Iran in the past few years have all been directed or co-directed by women, including Shirin Neshat's video-art shorts and feature Women Without Men, and Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's Persepolis. And the Iranian New Wave that's livened up world cinema over the past 20 years has been notable for a string of strong feminist films, some of them directed by men.