Dear Michael, you wrote some articles here at your blog and at Iranian.com about the modern Iranian cinematography. I’d like to add a movie by the young Iranian filmmaker Maryam Kesharvarz onto your list , called “Circumstances” (“Sharayet” in its persian original).
I saw it recently with friends who got it on DVD, since it is not yet shown in the movie-theaters in Sweden. The movie is about two girls who go to University and are like sisters in mind. The parents of Shirin, the more quiet of the two, were obviously killed by the regime for participating in political opposition. The family of Atafeh, however, is very well situated and rich, although not conformist. A brother of Atafeh, in the past supposed to start a career as musician, returns from a long absence and makes a completely brain-washed impression. Still loved by his mother and dad, he is depressed and drug addicted and finally only sees a way out his mental problems by devoting his life to Allah and becoming a servant of the regime.
The main person of the movie, however, are the two girls Shirin and Atafeh, who are both full of dreams of a career as singers, in a liberal and free society. This clashes with both the opressive political regime in Iran, with the dogmatic situation at the college, but brings them also in conflict with Atafehs well positioned family. In one scene of the movie, during a family celebration where usually everybody contributes a song on the piano, Atafehs brother insist that the girls should not perform any more, since he considers this as anti-islamic. Trying to avoid any conflict, her family declines to the brothers hypocrism and recommends their daughter to stay silent.
Atafeh and Shirin look for freedom of thoughts and more wild experiences by joining the Tehran party scene. When one of these illegal parties is raided by the regimes Basidj thugs, they both get arrested. Whereas Atafehs parents manage to bribe some of the police officers to get their daughter out, Shirin is kept for longer in custody and she is mentally tortured there. Atafehs depressive brother suddenly appears to work for the police. When he finds Shirin he offers her to work for her release, but only if she agrees to marry her.
Throughout the entire film, however, it is obvious that Shirin and Atafeh are more than just friends, they are connected by a deep, mutual love. This love between the two girls is the source of all their strength, of their endless confidence that a better and free life will come and they will start a great music career together somewhere abroad.
The film finishes undecided, without happy end. At one moment, Shirin declines to the possessory claims by her husband, Shirins brother. But it is clear that she is only suffering here.
The unconditional love between the two girls serves as the big contrast to a society which is driven by anxiety, lies and hate. When Shirin and Atafeh are together, their honesty and love is like a glance into a better future of the country.
And this is what I red in the UK newspaper Guardian about this marvellous movie:
“Circumstance’s strength is in the exuberance of Atafeh and Shireen, filled with adolescent fantasies of escape (and cringeworthy lad’s mag-style fantasies of each other: all matching underwear and high heels) and their rebellious rush to dance, drink and break rules. At times the sensuous hair-flicking and the way the camera lingers on their beauty feels overdone and their interest in liberalism seems to extend only to their right to party.
But the film frames their insistence on following their desires, whatever the consequences, as a powerful form of dissent; Atafeh tells a friend: “Here anything illegal becomes politically subversive.”
Set immediately before the protests of the Green movement swept through Iran, the film aims to show where the anger behind the demonstrations came from. “In Iran where the state controls your behaviour … they want you to dress a certain way, and not speak to people of the opposite sex in the street – of course the personal is political,” explains Keshavarz, “in a more explicit way than anywhere else.”“