Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!


About the Film
Year Released: 
Running Time: 

Teenagers Atafeh, and her best friend, Shireen, are experimenting with their burgeoning sexuality amidst the subculture of Tehran’s underground art scene when Atafeh’s brother, Mehran, returns home from drug rehab as the prodigal son. Battling his demons, Mehran vehemently renounces his former life as a classical musician and joins the morality police. He disapproves of his sister’s developing intimate relationship with Shireen and becomes obsessed with saving Shireen from Atafeh’s influence. Suddenly, the two siblings, who were close confidants, are entangled in a triangle of suspense, surveillance, and betrayal as the once-liberal haven of the family home becomes a place of danger for the beautiful Atafeh.

Splendidly constructed and saturated with a sumptuous sense of style and sensuality, -i-Circumstance-/i- marks the arrival of an exciting, original talent. First-time feature writer/director Maryam Keshavarz registers a rare glimpse of forbidden love in today’s Iranian youth culture.

-Shari Frilot, Sundance Film Festival

Poster Image: 
Film Director: 
Production Info
Reported or Estimated Budget: 
Beirut, Lebanon
Other Interesting Production Info: 
Both the Keshavarz and her film were banned from Iran for this cinematic portrayal.
Categories About the Film
coming of age
activism and social justice
coming of age
state violence and security
Racial/Ethnic Affiliation: 
Middle East
Filmmaking Team
Writer's Name: 
Maryam Keshavarz
Karin Chien, Maryam Keshavarz, Melissa M. Lee
Brian Rigby Hubbard
Primary Cast: 
Nikohl Boosheri; Sarah Kazemy; Reza Sixo Safai, Keon Mohajeri
Exhibition/Distribution Info
Participant Media; Roadside Attractions
Box Office Earnings: 
Where to find it/How to get it: 
DVD widely available

January 2011

(Sundance Film Festival) (premiere)

3 April 2011

(New Directors/New Films)

1 May 2011

(San Francisco International Film Festival)

1 May 2011

(Independent Film Festival of Boston)

8 July 2011

(Paris Cinéma)

12 July 2011

(Outfest Film Festival)

21 August 2011

(Noorderzon Festival Groningen)



5 Septemeber 2011

(Deauville American Film Festival)

24 September 2011

(Zurich Film Festival)

7 October 2011


9 October 2011

(Paris Gay and Lesbian Film Festival)

22 October 2011

(Tallgrass Film Festival)

2 November 2011

(Amsterdam Film Week)

12 November 2011

(Stockholm International Film Festival)

7 July 2012

(Fire!! Mostra Internacional de Cinema Gay i Lesbià de Barcelona)

Personal Film Review and Cultural Context: 

Circumstance, winner of Sundance’s Audience Award and played at the prestigious MoMA Showcase New Directors/New Films, is a resistant and contradictory film that tackles a deep friendship turned forbidden romance between two young women, Atafeh and Shireen in a post-revolutionary, religiously extremeist Iran. Iranian American director, Maryam Keshavarz’s first narrative film, seamlessly brings to light important themes ranging from the painful exchange of addiction for religious zealously and the societal male-privileges such religiosity enables for Atie’s brother, Mehran, to the class disparities that exist between the two young protagonists and how their economic standing empowers or cripples them as women, especially in a restrictive religious society accompanied by its expectations of the female. Keshavarz employs a brilliant play in light that poignantly relays the evolution of intimacy while simultaneously presenting the dissonance of visibility alongside the self-discovery of these characters’ politicized personhood. Looking in from a outlier’s perspective, we come away with the understanding that this is shrill cry against the violation of the senses. Circumstance is an amazing piece that calls out and reels in the eyes and ears to destroy violating vigilance and to realize the power of seeing. 


Keshavarz, Maryam. "Interview with Circumstance Writer and Director Maryam Keshavarz." Interview by Melissa Silverstein. Indiewire. A SnagFilms Co., 26 Aug. 2011. Web. <>.

Rich, B. Ruby. "Park City Remix." Film Quarterly 64.3 (2011): Film Quarterly. Universtiy of California Press, 2011. <>.

Rastegar, Roya Z. "Circumstance and Dangerous Elicitations of Truth." Huffington Post., Inc., 6 Sept. 2011. <>.