Sunday, January 8, 2012

Circumstance (2011)

Directed by Maryam Keshavarz. Starring Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy


Teenage love is not easy. It is even more difficult if that love is between two members of the same sex. Throw that mix into a country where homosexual relationships can be punishable by death, and you have the makings of a good story.

Atafeh (Boosheri) lives in a family of wealth and privilege with her mother, father and brother, Mehran. (Reza Sixo Safai.) Shireen (Kazemy) comes from the other side of the tracks, so to speak. She lives with her Aunt and Uncle after being orphaned by her parents who were killed by the government for their immoral ways.  Atahfeh and Shireen are two teenage school girls. The pair who are best friends, soon discover that they are in love.  The girls are also rebellious to Iran’s strict religious and socialist ways. They are big into Tehran's underground nightclub scene, and are friends with people who are self-liberated. Mehran, who was a former drug addict, has become a radical Muslim and informant for the Morality Police. He has planted cameras all over the house to spy on his family.  Mehran derives a plan with the Morality Police to marry Shireen after she an Atafeh are arrested by the morality police for partying at a night club. The pair discovers that their circumstances in life are forced upon them and beyond their control. They both dream of running away to Dubai where they would be free to live their lives the way they wanted to.

The story had a good plot-line; forbidden love, oppression of women, and teenage rebellion in a patriarchal country… but the narrative seemed to just graze over those subjects as a whole, when it could have gone more in depth with each of them. The sub-plot of Shireen’s home life was minimal at best. Atafeh’s mother can tell that her daughter’s relationship with Shireen is more than friendship, but that part of the story never fully develops either.  The plot seemed to move slowly at times, and with a bit of a soap opera pace, but it was good enough to keep my interest in the film. Maryam Keshavarz, in her feature film debut, does however show the impact of Iran’s strict religious culture on the two girls. The viewer does get the impression of what could happen to the pair if their true relationship is discovered. The performances of the young actresses, both in their theatrical debut, do a good job in making their relationship believable.

Winner of the Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance film festival, this foreign film is worth the 107 minutes it takes to watch.

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