AUGUST 26: Circumstance is released (2011)
On this day in 2011, the film Circumstance was first released in the United States. Written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz, Circumstance explores the reality for gay women living in contemporary Iran.
The film was ranked by Autostraddle as the 4th best lesbian film of all time (x).
Shot in Lebanon with Persian dialogue, the story is set in modern day Tehran, Iran and follows two teenage girls, Atafeh and Shireen. Atafeh has been orphaned by the government, who killed her parents in response to their political beliefs, and is raised by her uncle, but it is Shireen and her seemingly happy, traditional family that Atafeh truly gravitates towards. As Atafeh and Shireen grow closer, they begin to bond through the illegal activities that have become ingrained in Iranian youth culture; they sneak off to secret parties in warehouses, watch contraband DVDs of Western movies, and drink alcohol. On one such visit to a hidden DVD store, the two girls come across a copy of the film Milk, the 2008 LGBT film, and decide to translate it into Farsi. Wordlessly, Atafeh and Shireen’s relationship begins to evolve from friendship into romance. They being daydreaming about running off to a city where their relationship can come out of the shadows, but that all is halted when they are caught and arrested on the charge of driving and smoking cigarettes.
After grabbing audiences’ attention on the film festival circuit of 2011 and even taking home the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival, Circumstance has gone down in history as one of the most thought-provoking and dangerous lesbian films ever made. The film as well as the director herself was immediately banned in Iran and even in Beirut, Lebanon where it was filmed, the crew was forced to lie to the Lebanese government about the content of the project in order to avoid violence from religious extremist groups. Created by a writer/director who spent her summers in Shiraz, Iran and a band of actors who were all members of the Iranian diaspora, Circumstance rings true in a way it would not have had the story been told by outsiders of the culture. Despite the anxiety and threat of violence that surrounded the production of the film and the story itself, there’s a radical softness that lies at its core.