Iranian Film Explores Transsexual World

August 29, 2008 - 5:55 PM
Venice Film Festival organizers waited til the last minute to announce a film about the sensitive subject of transsexuals in modern-day Iran.
Venice, Italy (AP) - Organizers of the Venice Film Festival waited to announce "Khastegi (Tedium)" by first-time Iranian director Bahman Motamedian until the last minute to avoid alerting authorities to its sensitive subject: transsexuals in modern-day Iran.

The struggles of seven transsexuals depicted in the film are made more complicated by Iran's strict gender codes and cultural obstacles. But Motamedian, who is best known in Iran for theater work, insists the problems they face are universal to transsexuals anywhere in the world: finding their identity and seeking acceptance from their families.

"We know that throughout the world this problems exists," Motamedian said. "The idea was to raise awareness among families especially, because this is the first layer of barrier, and to help people to realize they are not alone and be able to face the problem."

Motamedian said he was inspired by the Italian neo-realists in his filmmaking, and for the movie he cast transsexuals, not professional actors, to act a role that he created.

"The cast I worked with had no cinematic training, which I thought would be useful to access things that a professional actor wouldn't be capable," Motamedian said.

"Usually an actor is trained to show things. I thought it was important to show what a person was hiding," he told a news conference Friday.

"Tedium," which is being shown out of competition, delves into the lives of seven transsexuals as they struggle with the question of whether they can find true romantic love, whether to go through with a sex change operation, how to tell their families - and in one case, a wife - and whether to remain in Iran.

Motamedian said the most difficult casting was for Shiva, the one female-to-male transsexual in the film.

"Right up to the day of shooting I hadn't found a suitable character to play that role ... and I even thought about cutting her out," Motamedian said. "As it is a very masculine and male-oriented society, the thought of really coming out and revealing that fact they wanted to come out and revealing they are not a 'real' male ... has real problems. All of the women I met who wanted to be male didn't want this to be known, for them it was a real problem coming out."

Motamedian said the movie was made without going through official channels to get permission - meaning without government financial support. But it also means the film won't be shown in Iran.