Winter 2011

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Maryam Keshavarz

Maryam Keshavarz: Forbidden Love in Iran

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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. Circumstance, filmed in Lebanon, opens the culture of Iran to the audience. “What makes the film even more groundbreaking is that it unabashedly portrays the women’s sexuality and desire on the silver screen,” says Keshavarz. She turned in a fake script to the Lebanese government to gain permission to film there. Even then, Lebanese authorities visited the set. Because of Circumstance’s depiction of homosexuality and the 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.”