Tuesday, 21 April 2009 Queer Film Festival doco highlights Iranian transsexuals

By Fran Metcalf
April 02, 2009 12:00am

BEING an unmarried woman at the age of 25 was enough to attract the wrath of filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian's traditional Iranian family.

It also triggered her curiosity: What would life be like for those Iranians who really rebelled against their society's strict social and traditional laws?
So began the making of her documentary, Be Like Others.

"I went to a private sex change clinic in Tehran and I spent time in the waiting room and met men who wanted to become women," says Eshaghian, who moved to New York when she was seven years old.

Homosexuality is still punishable by death in the Islamic Republic of Iran but sex-change operations are legal and many highly feminine men are opting for an identity that's legally allowed to them: transsexual.
Before and after
Eshaghian's film tracked the lives of some of these men, documenting their experiences before their gender reassignment surgery as well as one year afterwards.

"Most of the people I met were shunned by their families once they had the sex change," she says.

"I was intrigued with how a traditional society like Iran could comprehend these men because it involves a very different way of thinking.

"The notion that individuals have their own separate identity that deserves to exist is a very Western idea.

"In Iran, you are first and foremost seen as someone that's part of a family and that's much more important than who you are on your own."

Eshaghian's movie won the Teddy Jury Award at last year's Berlin International Film Festival and will be screened at the Queer Film Festival being held at the Brisbane Powerhouse from April 3-9.

It's the 10th anniversary of the annual festival which showcases more than 30 shorts, features and documentaries from around the country and the world, each sharing the theme of homosexuality.
We Are the Mods

Erin Cassidy's first feature film We Are the Mods, will have its Australian premiere at the festival.

Cassidy, who lives in Los Angeles but grew up in a small agricultural town in
central California, drew on her high school experiences to make the 91-minute feature.

It's a tale about high school loner, Sadie, who befriends the wild new girl, Nico.
Together, they explore sex, drugs and rock and roll by embracing 1960s British Mod culture in present-day California.

"I was into ska, I had a Vespa and the video I watched over and over was Quadrophenia," says Cassidy, 33.

Sadie, whom Cassidy bases on herself, becomes embroiled in a bisexual love triangle but ultimately discovers her first passion is photography.
"Coming out and dealing with my sexuality was difficult but, in doing so, it opened me up and it freed me from restrictions so I was able to find my real artistic passion in life," she says.

Queer Film Festival, April 3-9, Brisbane Powerhouse, single tickets $16. More info at, or 3358 8600.

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