The personal is political, and also incredibly sensuous, in Circumstance, a Sundance Audience Award-winner about two Iranian girls coming of age, deliriously and dangerously in love. Shireen and Atafeh are appropriately modest in the streets of Tehran, but they quickly shed their traditional headdress and inhibitions as they slip into house parties and illicit clubs to drink alcohol, flirt with boys and dance with each other to Iranian hip-hop. But they only have so much freedom from their families' protective eyes and the theocratic nation's morality police (which is not a euphemism or figurative term).
It's a debut feature by Maryam Keshavarz, and very much an expatriot's film. All the principals are Iranian expats or children of expats. The film was made in Lebanon, and it paints Iran as a culturally rich nation corrupted by the perversions of the Mullahs and their brutal application of a very strict vision of Islamic law. But Keshavarz deftly captures that in the blossom and torment of the girls' relationship. There are a couple moments when the film veers toward melodrama, but the tension of evading the authorities keep the film thrilling and tense. It's one of the best films I've seen this year. Review here. It opens at Zeitgeist Friday.