State of Affairs
BY Jeremy Kinser
August 19 2011 1:30 AM ET
“We were very specific in choosing our crew,” she recalls. “We couldn’t choose just anyone. It was a very difficult shoot in terms of both scope and putting ourselves at risk because of the content, although Lebanon is an extremely liberal country. It’s considered the gay mecca of the Middle East, but it’s still illegal to be gay.” Keshavarz says she didn’t feel comfortable even telling anyone what the film was about until she considered the person an ally.
Overall, Keshavarz found filming in Lebanon a positive experience, but there were some obstacles. “It’s a beautiful country and the people are incredible, but we definitely had some issues with authorities,” she says. “We submitted a censored version of the script to their censorship board and it was approved. We still had issues with people from the government coming to the set of the film wanting to know about the film. Word had gotten out that there was queer content. It was quite difficult at times.”
The covert operation paid off, and the film has already garnered high praise at numerous festivals, even taking home the coveted Sundance Audience Award last January. Keshavarz fully recognizes her film’s groundbreaking nature as well as its potential impact.
“There haven’t been many images of gay or bisexual Muslims or people from the Middle East at all,” she says. “We showed the film in Toronto and San Francisco and other cities and queer people came out to see it. It was really quite touching.”
Keshavarz says that while her immediate family in the States has seen the film, her relatives in Iran won’t have the opportunity since Circumstance can’t be shown in the Middle East.
“My family in Iran is not even aware of it,” she says, but her mother’s reaction was perhaps indicative of what her distant relatives might think. “My mom was upset and crying. She said I was putting myself at risk and should let someone else do this. It was hard for her, but my family knows I’ve never followed the rules. I come from a long line of very, very strong women.”
Still, Keshavarz prefers that people see her film for its entertainment value, rather than some agenda they think she’s pushing. “Ultimately, my job is to be a storyteller,” she says. “This isn’t a propaganda piece.”