107 minutes, U.S.A.-Iran-Lebanon, 2011, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema


An impassioned exploration of individual sexual yearning pitted against the combined repressive powers of religion and the Iranian state, writer-director Maryam Keshavarz’s first feature picked up the Audience Award at Sundance last year.

Tehran schoolgirls Atie (Nikohl Boosheri) and Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) are inseparable, their friendship turning into attraction as they frequent underground dance clubs and experiment with drugs. Such youthful rebellion is fraught with risk however, not least because Iran’s Morality Police are on the prowl, and the lovers soon find themselves facing an even more insidious adversary – Atie’s elder brother Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai), who’s emerged from a drug habit driven by renewed Islamic fervour.

Given the subject matter, it’s no surprise the film was shot in Beirut with an international Farsi-speaking cast, yet it still creates a potent atmosphere where desire for freedom bristles against a climate of fear. Here’s a film where sex, swear words and bad behaviour aren’t mere affectation but an act of defiance.  (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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