In a new feature film, "Cul De Sac," London-based Iranian directors Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad and Mahshad Torkan tell the story of a lesbian woman who flees Iran's repressive Islamic regime. The script draws on the real-life experiences of Kiana Firouz, who plays herself in the film. Hossein Ghavimi, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Farda, asked Goudarzi-Nejad and Firouz about their motivation in making the film.
Actress and documentary filmmaker Kiana Firouz in a scene from 'Cul de Sac'
Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad: The story is in fact based on the life of an Iranian homosexual woman who attempts to draw the world's attention to the voices of Iranian lesbians. She consequently finds her return to Iran impossible. She claims asylum in the United Kingdom, but the Home Office incredibly turns the case down.
She had been making a documentary film about Iranian homosexuals back when she lived in Iran, but the Iranian Intelligence Service found the footage and started following her. She managed to leave the country because she realized that the security service had become suspicious about her activities and the existence of her film. They started to investigate regarding the identity of the filmmaker and interviewees and the content of the documentary, but she was already here in the U.K. to study and work for human rights.
The evidence clearly shows that she is a lesbian [facing persecution in Iran.] But the Home Office did not consider the facts and refused her asylum application.
RFE/RL: What motivated you to make this movie?
Goudarzi-Nejad: I made a short film in 2007 called "Have I Ever Happened?" which at the time was reviewed by Radio Farda. It was about an Iranian poet who was also a lesbian. The film was screened at two international film festivals together with other events. I received lots of messages from Iranian homosexuals, especially lesbians, and they gave me the impression that they were quite impressed and admired the work. They kept asking me to make more movies about homosexuals' lives.
Once Kiana called me while she was in Iran and briefed me on her filmmaking experiences in Iran. She was considering making a documentary film about Iranian homosexuals. She was concerned with finding out whether there would be a chance to screen the film after completion. I gave her my best knowledge about the dangers and risks that she has to take into account, but she seemed determined to do it. So I agreed to support the distribution of her film and to help publicize the voice of this innocent, vulnerable minority internationally.
RFE/RL: Did Kiana write the script of "Cul de Sac" herself?
Goudarzi-Nejad: No, she wasn't involved with writing the script, but it was written based on her life story.
RFE/RL (to Kiana Firouz): I'm interested in what inspired you to act in "Cul de Sac." Can you tell us some details about your role in the film?
Firouz: Sure -- I played the role of an Iranian lesbian in this film. The story is mainly based on my life.
In my opinion, the film potentially falls into the genre of docudrama. It was important to me as an Iranian lesbian to play a role like this. I believe the best way to enlighten people is to raise public awareness through free media, and film is the most powerful medium that can share the difficulties that all Iranian lesbians are experiencing. I strongly believe this film will touch everyone.
RFE/RL: What stage of completion is the film at now? Will it be screened soon?
Firouz: The movie is scheduled to be screened next month. The trailer has been on YouTube since December 2009, and it was watched by more than a thousand viewers just in the first four days.
RFE/RL: Will it appear at film festivals?
Firouz: Yes, it will definitely be shown at film festivals. So far, two film festivals in San Francisco and Canada have invited us.
RFE/RL: Can you tell us about the difficulties you've faced in applying for asylum in the United Kingdom?
Firouz: As an Iranian lesbian activist, I sought asylum in the U.K. My application was turned down and ignored by the Home Office, despite the serious threats to my life that I'll face if they deport me to Iran.
I'm shattered and emotionally devastated that they have dealt with my application so irresponsibly. A serious campaign has been already launched to support me and save my life.
The Iranian Queer Organization and the U.K. Gay and Lesbian Immigration Group are also supporting me. I am ready to take any further risks to fight for our rights.
The situation for homosexuals is not only terrifying and horrible in Iran, but also for those who have escaped to seek asylum in other free countries, mostly signatories of the Geneva Convention, and especially Turkey. It seems to me that fate still does not wish us a peaceful life. We are going to resist and we will take every possible action until the day the whole world hears our voices
On Film, The Trials Of An Iranian Lesbian Activist
'Coronation Street' stars Brooke Vincent and Sacha Parkinson are not worried the public might think they are gay when they take part in the soap's first lesbian kiss.
Brooke Vincent and Sacha Parkinson "don't care" if people think their 'Coronation Street' kiss means they are a real-life couple.
The actresses - who play teenagers Sophie Webster and Sian Powers in the soap - are due to engage in a lesbian love story on the ITV1 show and Brooke is convinced members of the public will believe the storyline is real.
According to the Daily Star newspaper, she said: "I think we're going to get a lot of people believing we are gay because we are really close in real life, plus a lot of people think 'Corrie' is real.
"So when they see me and Sacha out together, they might be a bit like, 'Woah!' We don't care though - it's funny."
However, the 17-year-old star was delighted to be asked to take part in the adventurous storyline.
She said: "Me and Sacha are so flattered."
While the girl-on-girl kiss is a first for the ITV soap, the actresses have been inspired by previous soap lesbians.
Sacha, 18, is particularly impressed with her "idol" Anna Friel, whose character Beth Jordache famously kissed another woman on Channel 4's 'Brookside' in 1994.
She added: "Anna Friel, who is my idol, went through a similar thing and she's now doing amazing stuff."
Mississippi school that canceled dance to keep female couple away relents -- then throws the real party across town
Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old high school student, was told by school officials that she could not wear a tux or bring a same sex date to the prom
Constance McMillen just wanted what teenage girls have dreamed about since time immemorial -- to go to the prom with the person she's dating. In McMillen's case, that person happens to be another girl. But the possibility of some same-sex jamming to "I Gotta Feeling" didn't sit too well with the folks at Mississippi's Itawamba Agricultural High School. Reasoning that no prom was better than a prom with lesbians, they abruptly canceled the whole affair last month. Cue media frenzy, ACLU lawsuit, Facebook uproar.
After an embarrassing glare of attention on Itawamba, it seemed a happy ending was in sight. Last Tuesday, the school agreed to host an off-campus prom and told Constance she could, per her stated intention, bring her date and wear a tux. On Friday night, McMillen and her girlfriend showed up at the Fulton Country Club ready to party. There, she says, she found just seven other revelers, including two learning disabled students.
Worse, she claims that her classmates were off doing the Macarena at an alternate event, arranged with the aid and consent of the parents and staff of her school. Speaking to the Advocate this week, McMillen said, "They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them ... everyone went to the other one I wasn't invited to."
God knows it's no great stretch to give teens and adults credit for being ignorant douchebags, but seriously? They threw a whole other prom? What is this, an episode of "Glee"?
Indeed, Gawker reported yesterday that they had dug up a Facebook page for one of McMillen's classmates, and lo! There were pix galore of a well-attended, corsage-riddled weekend dance event. (Even more have been neatly compiled on BruceKatz23's Flickr stream.) Unlike that legendary slumber party your best friend threw when she told you she was home alone with the mumps, however, the alternate dance wasn't a total top secret. McMillen says that she knew about the other event, but, "If I wasn't wanted there, I wasn't going to go."
The elaborate lengths to which people will apparently go to avoid a girl in a tux are dispiriting at best, and McMillen's victory may seem to have the word "Pyrrhic" stamped all over it. But in the end, she may well have had a better prom than many of us ever did. (Non-discrimination is a right, but having crappy experiences in high school is pretty much an inevitability.) McMillen told the Advocate that the special ed kids "had the time of their lives ... That's the one good thing that came out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them."
It may have been far from perfect, but unlike the blowout across town, that little shindig at Fulton Country Club was everything that I hope for for my own daughters, on their prom nights and their wedding days and all their lives. Because none of those other people matter. On Friday night, Connie McMillen got to walk through that door on the arm of the person she wanted to dance with.
For those of you still suffering withdrawals from the end of the groundbreaking guilty please, The L Word, Showtime borrows from Real Housewives to bring you…The Real L World.
However, for those of us who wanted more reality from the first incarnation of The L Word, it remains to be seen if Showtime will deliver. Looks can be deceiving, and lesbian “reality” in L.A. is surely different than the lived reality of queer women in other cities.
E! provides a sneak peak at the cast of the reality series set to debut at 10 p.m. June 20. Described as “a rare, fly-on-the-wall look into the lives of attractive and successful L.A. lesbians,” The Real L Word stars (clockwise from far left):
• Tracy, 29: A film and television development exec new to the lesbian scene, whose mother is having a hard time dealing with her sexuality.
• Whitney,27: A Hollywood special effects artist is a self-professed terrible girlfriend.
• Nikki, 37: A rep/manager/producer/industry bigwig who publicly came out on The Oprah Winfrey Show and is now engaged and planning her wedding to Real L Word costar Jill.
• Rose, 35: A real estate advisor who wants to settle down, but can’t seem to shake her old habits, who was apparently the inspiration for the character Papi in the original series.
• Mikey, 34: Founder of The Gallery Los Angeles and producer of LA Fashion Weekend, she’s also engaged and trying to plan a wedding of her own.
• Jill, 33: A writer and “Jersey girl next door,” she is engaged to costar Nikki and has the support of her family.
We’re definitely curious to see what kind of picture is painted by the “real” lesbians selected for the new series. Will they parallel the characters in the original series? Fall into classic lesbian stereotypes? Only time will tell.