France/USA/Iran/Lebanon, 2011, 105 min
Maryam Keshavarz’s debut feature is a riveting political drama and love story. This Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner focuses on the fraught allegiances and desires of a single family in Tehran. Atafeh, the privileged daughter of an educated, well-to-do family and her new friend, Shireen, share in an underground culture of nightclubs and parties that are banned in Iran. As the young women move about the city without male escorts and remove their headscarves in public, they defy the morality police—exhilarating but dangerous activities. Their friendship deepens and they fall into a sweet, forbidden love affair, further driving the wedge between their public and private selves. When Atafeh’s brother, Mehran, returns home, newly fundamentalist in his views, the home itself becomes a dangerous web of surveillance and intrigue. Mehran, with direct access to powerful conservative forces in Tehran, uses his newfound prestige to rule over the daily activities of his sister and parents. Thus, the family becomes a microcosm of the political and social problems of Iran overall, where neighbors insist on their own moral superiority and pleasure takes place behind closed doors. Keshavarz fashions a sexy, engaging narrative that captures the paranoiac secrecy and repression that accompanies authoritarian rule, while revealing that politics truly do begin at home.
In Farsi with subtitles. Special support for this program generously provided by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. New Directors Prize Contender.