Thursday, March 05, 2009

HBO documentary on transexuals in Iran




A film by Tanaz Eshaghian

Premieres May 20, 2009

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country with strict social mores and traditional values, sex-change operations are legal. Over twenty years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious edict) making sex change permissible for “diagnosed transsexuals.” Yet homosexuality is still punishable by death.

With Iran’s international arms negotiations dominating news headlines worldwide, a very private kind of drama is unfolding behind the scenes. Highly feminine and attracted to members of the same sex, yet forced to live in secret for fear of retribution, a generation of young Iranian men are adopting an identity legally allowed to them—transsexual. In pursuit of what one man calls simply, “a decent life,” they flock to the country’s best-established gender reassignment surgeon, Dr. Bahram Mir Jalali, and are counseled by 24-year-old Vida, a post-op woman who claims to be “reborn” but warns of dangers that still await.

Iranian-American filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian accompanies several young men as they contemplate and prepare for their transformation, then follows them into and out of surgery. Intimate and unflinching, BE LIKE OTHERS is a fascinating look at those on the fringes of Iranian life—those looking for acceptance through the most radical of means.

About Tanaz Eshagian:
Tanaz Eshaghian was born in Iran in 1974 and left with her mother at the age of six, at the start of the Iran-Iraq war. She grew up in New York City, where she still lives, and graduated from Brown University in 1996 with a BA in Art Semiotics. Tanaz began making films a few years later, with a focus on documenting the Iranian experience in America. In 2001 she made the short documentary I CALL MYSELF PERSIAN. Framed by the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 and the World Trade Center attacks, the film reveals how Iranians living in the U.S. are often stereotyped and held responsible for anti-American activity, and weighs the effects on their identity. Her second film, the 63-minute LOVE IRANIAN-AMERICAN STYLE (2005), was shot over a period of four years and documented her own traditional Iranian family’s obsession with marrying her off. Sexual purity, money and a mother’s worries come together in this humorous guided tour lead by Tanaz through the Iranian-Jewish communities in New York and Los Angeles. BE LIKE OTHERS is her first film set in Iran—a country she had not visited for decades.

Lauren Schwartz
Donna Daniels Public Relations, LLC
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