Written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz, Circumstance is the story of a teenage Iranian girl who falls for her best friend while her brother seeks religion following his recovery from drug abuse. The film is an exploration of homosexuality in Iran as the film is shot in Lebanon while it also goes into the world of Iranian youth culture. Starring Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, and Reza Sixo Safai. Circumstance is a compelling drama from Maryam Keshavarz.
Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) is a young Iranian teenager becomes very close to her new friend Shireen (Sarah Kazemy), who has just enrolled to the school that Atafeh attends. The two also attend secret parties filled with all sorts of things like drugs and alcohol as they enjoy their time together. Meanwhile, Atafeh’s older brother Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai) returns home as he struggles to recover from drug abuse. Unsure of what to do with his life, he meets a man named Mohammad Mehdi (Amir Barghashi) during prayer at a mosque who helps him with some answers. When Shireen is suited to marry a man named Yusef (Milad Hadchiti), Shireen tells Atafeh during a trip with Atafeh’s parents (Soheil Parsa and Nasrin Pakkho) and Mehran at the family beach home.
While hanging out with the brash Joey (Keon Mohajeri) and the sensitive Hossein (Sina Amedson), Atafeh and Shireen go to a club as Shireen, following an encounter with a cab driver, becomes unhinged through alcohol. A raid happens at a club where Mehran is revealed to have join a group led by Mehdi to bring morality back to the Iranian youth culture. Atafeh and the family are confused by Mehran’s sudden need to pray as he starts to have interest towards Shireen from afar. After a night where the two girls dub a film for Hossein, the two are caught by Mehdi’s group as Mehdi makes threats towards Atafeh’s father about her wrongdoings. With Shireen in bigger trouble, Mehran makes a move that would complicate everything else. Particularly for Atafeh who discovers what Mehran has been up to.
The film is a love story between two teenage girls in a world where homosexuality remains taboo as one of the girl’s brother becomes part of a religious fanatic group. Maryam Keshavarz’s script explores the relationship between Atafeh and Shireen as it progresses from an innocent thing to be more serious as it becomes harder for the two girls to express their love for each other publicly. Notably as complications arrive including Atafeh’s brother Mehran who becomes interested in Shireen for reasons that might not entirely be honorable. While the script does have its flaws due to the narratives over the relationship between Atafeh and Shireen as well as Mehran’s storyline of his own integration into fanaticism. Keshavarz is able to give these characters a complexity that is engaging including minor parts such as Atafeh and Mehran’s parents.
Keshavarz’s direction is very engaging for the way she has the camera always at what is going on and the environment that surrounds the two young women. While the film is shot on location in Lebanon instead of the more conservative Iran, it allowed the film to roam into the secret worlds that Islamic youths venture into as well as landscapes similar to Iran. While a lot of the film shot with hand-held camera to maintain a style similar to cinema verite, there is also a lot of shots shown from the perspective of security cameras to exemplify the tense world of Iran as these girls are constantly being watched. The direction is intimate for the way it’s framed such as how Atafeh eats dinner with her family along with stylish fantasy sequences to present the world that the characters crave for. Overall, Keshavarz creates a truly solid and captivating film about gay/lesbian love in a world as restrictive as Iran.
Cinematographer Brian Rigney Hubbard does an excellent job with the film‘s photography from the grainy yet naturalistic look of the exterior city and landscape shots in Lebanon while creating some entrancing yet stylish shots for some of the nighttime exteriors such as the nightclubs and parties the girls attend. Editor Andrea Chignoli does a wonderful job with the editing in giving the film a stylistic feel to its pacing with jump-cuts and other rhythmic-driven cuts to play up some of the romantic and more intense, darker scenes in the film.
Production designers Natacha Kalfayan and Scott Enge do some fantastic work with the set pieces such as the posh home that Atafeh and Mehran live in to the mosque that Mehran goes to. Costume designers Lamia Choucair and Danielle Gilbert do nice work with the veils and clothes the women wear to represent their youthful energy while the majority of the characters wear more casual though slightly conservative clothing. Sound editor Glenn T. Morgan does some fine work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the nightclubs and the tense highways of Lebanon as well as sparse, intimate moments in the scenes at the house.
Music composer/supervisor Gingger Shankar does a brilliant job with the music that is created ranging from traditional Islamic music to haunting ambient pieces to play up some of the dramatic elements of the film. Shankar also assembles a soundtrack that includes traditional Islamic music as well as modern-day Islamic pop and hip-hop as well as bits of punk, Western pop, and classical piano music to exemplify Mehran’s old passion.
The cast is terrific as it includes small but notable performances from Keon Mohajeri as the arrogant Joey and Sina Amedson as the aspiring filmmaker Hossein. Amir Barghashi is very good as the quiet but chilling Mehdi, an organization leader that tries to maintain control for the lives involved as he becomes close to Mehran. Soheil Parsa and Nasrin Pakkho are wonderful as Atafeh’s stern but sympathetic parents who try to deal with Mehran’s new behavior as well as Atafeh’s own issues the best way they can. Reza Sixo Safai is superb as Mehran as he brings an eerie performance to man trying to redeem himself only to get himself into a very dark world that brings discomfort to his family.
Finally, there’s the duo of Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy as they give remarkable performances in their respective roles of Atafeh and Shireen. The two brings a lively yet charismatic approach to their performances with Boosheri as the more refined young rich girl while Kazemy as the more troubled one. The two also add a sexiness that isn’t overt while being seductive enough to be exciting as it’s definitely some fantastic work from two newcomers.
Circumstance is a superb and mesmerizing film from Maryam Keshavarz. While it’s a story that might not seem new to gay and lesbian audiences other than its environment. It is still an engaging drama that explores the world of homosexuality in Iran without trying to make some political statement. In the end, Circumstance is an excellent film from Maryam Keshavarz.
© thevoid99 2011