Fall 2011

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Maryam Keshavarz

Maryam Keshavarz: Forbidden Love in Iran

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Maryam Keshavarz’s film Circumstance is playing in a select group of cities across the country, including at Chicago's Landmark's Century Centre Cinema.

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During an autobiography writing class at Northwestern, filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz (WCAS97) learned a basic rule: write what you know. She followed that rule with Circumstance, her 2011 film about a wealthy Iranian family struggling to contain their teenage daughter’s sexual rebellion and their son’s newfound obsession with Islam. The idea for the film, which won an Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, was based on Keshavarz’s personal experience in Iran and her cousins’ stories about underground parties. The story of their experience was ripe for the telling. Circumstance, filmed in Lebanon, opens the culture of Iran to the audience, even showing Iranian women without their headscarves in the privacy of their homes. Keshavarz turned in a fake script to the Lebanese government to gain permission to film there. Even then, Lebanese men raided the set with machine guns. Because of Circumstance’s depiction of homosexuality and the underground party scene, cast and crew members cannot return to Iran. “That is something I struggled with,” she says. “I wouldn’t call myself political, but I’m honored that this film can start conversations.”