Set in contemporary Iran in the unseen world of Iranian youth culture, filled with underground parties, sex, drugs and defiance, CIRCUMSTANCE is the story of two vivacious young girls — wealthy Atafeh and orphaned Shireen — discovering their burgeoning sexuality and, like 16 year-old girls anywhere, struggling with their desires and the boundaries placed upon them by the world they were born into.
Winner of this year’s Sundance Audience Award, CIRCUMSTANCE is Maryam Keshavarz’s directorial debut and stars newcomers Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, Reza Sixo Safai, Soheil Parsa, Nasrin Pakkho, Amir Barghashi, Fariborz Daftari and Keon Mohajeri. The producers are Karin Chien, Keshavarz and Melissa M. Lee.
Maryam Keshavarz’s CIRCUMSTANCE introduces two defiant young heroines who stand apart in contemporary film. The joyful, rebellious adventures of Atafeh and Shireen, two Iranian girls on the tumultuous verge of adulthood, could take place anywhere in the world, but they take place in Iran, where they unfold inside an atmosphere of danger, fear and repression.
Keshavarz exposes a world where the pleasures that fuel youth culture across the globe – music, dancing, sexuality, humor, politics, and self-expression – are forbidden and even criminal. Keshavarz presents a portrait of an intensely cosmopolitan Iran and two modern young women whose personal search for identity, excitement, love and freedom is richly relatable to young Westerners. It is in their need to keep their night lives, love lives and dream lives a secret, where the perils they face as young women in Iran emerges.
For Keshavarz, who grew up with one foot in the U.S. and the other in Iran and has personally experienced the underground world of Tehran nightclubs, telling this story was risky. Even before she wrote the screenplay, she knew that doing so could prevent her from ever returning to a country she considers home, and could endanger the Iranian cast and crew she hoped to involve. Yet, no matter the tricky consequences, this was a story she felt she could not turn away from. She began making the film several years before the youth-driven, Green Wave demonstrations that rocked the Middle East started in the summer of 2009, and watched as her film began dove-tailing with fast-moving international events and a youth-quake across the region.
“The film is not autobiographical but elements of it are based on some of my own experiences and those of people that I know,” Keshavarz explains. “I’ve always been so impressed by young people in Iran who try so hard to find a sense of freedom within the restrictions. Whenever I’ve gone out in Iran, I’ve been in awe of their bravery, and I’m especially in awe of the women, because they’re so much more vulnerable, especially when it comes to arrest and interrogation.”