Maryam Keshavarz can’t go home again.
The Iranian-American director of “Circumstance,” an assured drama about two young women grappling with sexuality and repression in Iran, acknowledges that she probably won’t ever be able to return to the birthplace of her parents, and the Iranian capital city of Tehran, where she spent summers growing up and frequently visited.
In my interview with Keshavarz at WSJ.com today (“Inside the Secret Lives of Lesbians in Iran,” how’s that for a hits-generating headline?), the first-time feature filmmaker told me: “As I started writing more truthfully and the characters became more real as opposed to symbols, I really started to strip away my self-censorship, and I realized that if I was going to make the film, I had to make it as truthfully as possible, and once I got that in the script, I would never be able to return to Iran.”
During screenings of the film for Iranian-American audiences, Keshavarz said that certain moments, particularly a line that includes the phrase “Fuck the Mullahs!”, has generated audible gasps from the audience.
Such controversial moments–including simply the image of young Iranian women engaged in amorous relations–has yielded a fair share of hostile reactions, including threats both in person and by email. “Threats in email are funny, because they are always in poor English,” she told me.
When the film goes to DVD, Keshavarz admitted to me that it would only be a short matter of time before pirated copies would end up in Iran. And then the shit would really hit the fan.
“So many people in Iran want to see it,” she told me. “It’s going to be thrilling and scary. Once it gets to DVD, it will get copied and sent over there, and it’s going to be amazing, because I’d love to know the reactions, but it’s going to be scary, because it’s going to be more out there and I’ll be a bit more vulnerable at that point.”