Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Circumstance": More than meets the trailer

By Angela Thomas
It is rare to watch a piece of cinema that in itself was a huge risk. It is even rarer to watch a film in which the actors and actresses have risked not only their reputations but lives as well.

It took me exactly one year to get my hands on a copy of “Circumstance,” but I finally did it. I saw a preview for the film last summer while checking out the various Hulu film trailers. The film offered a few things that interested me; Iranian youth culture, potential love story between two women, and a risk. While watching the trailer, one could get the premise of the film by assuming it is a story of two Iranian women coming to terms with their sexuality and feelings for one another. However, “Circumstance” was so much more than that. “Circumstance” was a risk, and huge one that director, Maryam Keshavarz took.

Sarah Kazemy (left) who portrays Shireen and Nikohl Boosheri (right) who portrays Atefah
Photo courtesy of jbspins.blogspot.com
“It’s all about being trapped in the system,” Keshavarz said in an interview. Not only were these two women, Atefah (Nikohl Boosheri) and Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) thrown into a society where women are not treated as equals and judged by their class, but also have to appear to play along with society’s norms while having romantic and sexual feelings for one another.

The story behind “Circumstance” was originally Keshavarz’s Master’s thesis at New York University. Keshavarz’s professor encouraged her to write about what she knew. As a teenager, Keshavarz was familiar with the underground culture. Although the film is based in Iran, because of the content of the movie, Keshavarz was forced to find another location.

Keshavarz (far right) directs Kazemy and Boosheri
Photo courtesy of takepart.com
“There are a lot of similarities,” Keshavarz said about picking her new location, Lebanon, to film “Circumstance.” Because of the exposure the film was giving to Iran, its youth culture, its inequality; it was a huge risk for the crew and actors to take. None of them would be allowed to visit or go back to Iran.

The film really did surprise me. Expecting a lesbian story, I instead received a background on Iran and the underground culture. Most of my opinions of Iran come from the media. I suspected it was conservative country but I had no idea there was an underground culture. The youth are no different from our youth here or anywhere for that matter.

What I loved most about the film was the theme of equality. The fact that the youth in the movie are willing to risk everything in order to get the message out that human rights should exist by exposing the film, “Milk,” which was about the first openly-gay Mayor, Harvey Milk, to the country of Iran was inspiring. But even more engaging was that Atefah and Shireen were two best friends just like any other girl; they liked to shop, go to parties, socialize, dance, and enjoy life—however with restrictions from their society. It is no different from any other country and that is what I liked about the film. Keshavarz wasn’t just exposing Iran but she also linked this movie with the way other country’s societies are because no society is perfect.

This movie is a must see for everyone. It isn’t a film to make viewers hate the country of Iran but to point out that many countries don’t preserve the rights and equality of their citizens. “Circumstance” is a lesson that everyone regardless of race, sexuality, gender, religion, etc. should be treated equally.

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