Apr 19, 2011

Trailer Time: Circumstance

The trailer for Circumstance, Iranian director Maryam Keshavaraz’s first feature film debuted yesterday. The film is set in the Iranian capital Tehran (actually filmed in Beirut, Lebanon) and is about a family’s struggle with their daughter’s rebellious teenage life. Circumstance won the audience Dramatic prize at Sundance this year; a prize previously given to films like Lee Daniels’s Oscar-winning Precious and last year’s Happythankyoumoreplease.

The trailer’s actually not bad. It promises an interesting youthful perspective on the condition of teenagers in Iran, and having grown up there myself, much of the trailer ring so true. Also, filming in Beirut with unknown Iranian actors gives the filmmakers the freedom to take any turn they want with the story. Needless to say, depiction of the underground party, or even merely showing the girls without their scarves would have been impossible had the film been made in Iran. Making a film with homosexual undertones? Don’t even think about it! So overall, I’m a Yes, and I’ll definitely watch this film. However...

Unlike most of the Iranian community on the internet, I’m still gonna keep my expectations pretty low. For one thing, I can’t think of a single film that was made outside of Iran about Iranians that was praised by Iranians as much as it was by others. Most recently, Shirin Neshat’s Women without Men which also dealt with women’s issues in Iran, and also won awards at major film festivals (Best director at Venice) left me with an empty heart after I’d anticipated it for more than a year, mostly because it was much more directed toward foreign art film followers than someone who’s actually familiar with the context of the film. It will go unnoticed by those of you who read the subtitles but here, the lines, even in these short two minutes, sound like they’ve been translated from English rather than written in Farsi in the first place, something that reminds me of the monotonic and overbearingly mechanical dialogue of Neshat’s film. (And in her film, the script was actually translated!)

Also, it seems like Keshavarz is trying to cover A LOT of ground in this film – homosexuality, oppression, religion, politics, and women’s issues. I’ll be the first to admit that religion and politics have been woven into the fabric of Iranian living for so long, it’s virtually impossible to leave them aside no matter what the film’s about, but still, is it a good sign if the trailer is showing bits and pieces of everything, as if it’s trying to prove that the film is aware of ALL these issues? I’d be happier if the trailer focused on the central relationship. I think I’m being too cynical but to be honest, I’m mostly put off by the soundtrack and its repeated use of the word Zoor (Farsi for force, or in context, pressure) than I am with the actual film. The images and the dialogue already transfer the message, Thank you!

Anyway, as I said, I’ll certainly watch this film. Regardless of its quality, I don’t get that many chances to watch people speak Farsi on the big screen and even if the film discusses too many issues without dealing with any of them in depth, I still can’t deny my interest in any of those issues. One can never judge a film by its trailer anyway. It can always go both ways. Let’s hope this is more of a Precious than a Happythankyoumoreplease.

*No Canadian release date has been announced yet, but south of the border, the film opens in August.

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