I know that I AM

Today was emotionally really shitty, the kind of day I want to finish by getting wasted, all teen-punk angst. Lucky there’s the internet to remind me just how grateful I should be that I’m not a tranny in Iran.

Straight.com had a piece reviewing some of the highlights of the Vancouver Queer Film & Video Festival, many that seem older than a year, or maybe it’s just been a long year in Cantonese pirate DVD land, and several that are pretty tranny-centric usually coming from somewhere in Asia where filmmakers seem to have a better grasp on reality than the English-speaking world. The film that grabbed me though, is I know that I AM directed by Peyman Khosravi, a documentary on transsexual and gay prostitutes in Iran. The trailer is on YouTube.

I Know That I Am

Despite the fact that much of the footage—shot in secret and smuggled out of Iran—was captured and presumed destroyed by local authorities, I Know That I Am exists thanks to the tenacity of director Peyman Khosravi.

Out On Screen is extremely proud to present the world premiere of this unique, powerful documentary. I Know That I Am reveals the little-told story of trans queers in Iran. Vilified by society and without support networks outside their small communities, theirs is one of survival against the odds: according to law, sexual “deviancy” is punishable by hanging. Through interviews with government officials, human rights advocates and trans people themselves, the film constructs a telling, important portrait of queer struggles amidst profound cultural restrictions.

— Vancouver Queer Film & Video Festival

Persian loses footage in escape to Canada

Filmmaker Peyman Khosravi didn’t stay in Iran long enough to experience the potential consequences of making a film about gay transsexuals.

Driven to tell a human-rights story, the then–TV executive producer had amassed a pile of footage about Iranian transsexual and gay prostitutes. About 10 months ago, he showed selections to his parents in their Tehran apartment. On his way home, Khosravi received a frantic call from a neighbour to say undercover agents were in his suite, going through the rest of the footage. He never went home again. Within two weeks, he had fled to Vancouver, leaving about 70 percent of his footage behind.

“If they find us brave, we don’t see it that way,” Babak Yousefi, the producer of I Know That I Am, told the Straight in a phone interview. (Khosravi filtered his comments through Yousefi in Farsi, as he didn’t feel his English was strong enough for an interview.) The film has its international premiere at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival this Sunday (August 20) at 7 p.m., at Tinseltown. “To us, it’s a duty. We’re just a couple of guys doing what we needed to do.”

In Canada, after Khosravi and Yousefi partnered under the name Taboo Productions, they heard that one of the film’s subjects was murdered. The two investigated and discovered that she was actually in prison, but the government would not say why. Another of the film’s subjects fled the country and is seeking asylum in the U.S.

Even here, the two found they struggled to gain the trust of the gay Iranian community. Through The Centre on Davie Street, Khosravi and Yousefi found the same kind of emotional scars on queer Iranians living in Canada as in Tehran. Potential subjects weren’t immediately willing to go on camera.

“At first we were angry,” Yousefi explained. “‘Hey—we’re two heterosexual guys caring more about your situation than you do.’ But then we grew to understand. They go through things that we can’t even imagine.”

On the eve of their premiere, the two are not sure what to expect. So far, the local Iranian community has sent nothing but blessings to Taboo, in the form of e-mails and phone calls.

Though anxious, they’re already planning their next projects, which will all highlight international human rights. Their Web site, which will be up within two weeks, is www.tabooproductions.ca.

— Straight.com