Appropriate Behavior 
Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Our sixth selection is Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior  with an introduction by local film programmer Caitlin Coder.
- Screening Date: Wednesday, September 19th, 2018 | 7:00pm
- Venue: Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
- Specifications: 2015 / 86 minutes / English / Color
- Director(s): Desiree Akhavan
- Print: Supplied by Swank
- Tickets: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members
341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202
Courtesy of press notes:
For Shirin (Desiree Akhavan), being part of a perfect Persian family isn’t easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn’t know she’s bisexual, and her ex-girlfriend, Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), can’t understand why she doesn’t tell them. Even the six-year-old boys in her moviemaking class are too ADD to focus on her for more than a second. Following a family announcement of her brother’s betrothal to a parentally approved Iranian prize catch, Shirin embarks on a private rebellion involving a series of pansexual escapades, while trying to decipher what went wrong with Maxine.
Written and directed by Akhavan, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR introduces a gray area to the coming-out narrative; in an Iranian-American family, sharing information about one’s sexuality isn’t always the right approach to liberation. With her priceless deadpan delivery, Akhavan’s portrayal of Shirin is the film’s true revelation—a woman caught between self-doubt and self-possession, trapped in a web of family mores and societal expectations, with all their accompanying—and often hilarious—complexities.
Written by Kim Yutani
- Sundance Film Festival – 2014
- Independent Spirit Awards – 2015 – Nominee: Best First Screenplay
- Gotham Awards – 2015 – Nominee: Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award
“I’m a director and a writer, and I’m used to having my way. I’m not used to being a vessel for other people.”
Courtesy of press notes:
I’ve been in development for APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR since I was 10. As a latch-key child of immigrants, it was around that age that I started realizing what a freak of nature I was. Even though I had the perspective, wit and desires of a normal person, these qualities were somehow mismatched to the circumstances I was born to (female/ Iranian-American/bisexual). I knew if I wanted to see reflections of myself in mainstream culture I’d have to do it myself.
The film is inspired by my experience facing life after my first serious relationship with a woman. Not only was I heartbroken, but also experiencing the most uncomfortable phase of the coming out process: the time that follows after you’ve made the big announcement. Your family has no idea of how to process the information and you can’t look them in the eye without wondering if they’re imagining you having gay sex now that they know that you’re capable of it. I decided I wanted to make a film that touched on the themes that were ruling my life, but without the classic film cliches: no huge break-through hugging-through-our-tears coming out scene, no clear cut definitions of good and bad, no taking itself too seriously and sex scenes that were honest and true to dating and fucking as I know it.
I chose to star in the film because it would have been disingenuous to have hired a better looking version of me. The film is so clearly a response to my life and my desires, I wanted to put it all on the line. Though it is not autobiographical and the exact events in the film have not taken place, the emotions are true to life, only I evoked them in scenarios that were convenient for the sake of a 90 minute comedy. I was very much influenced by ANNIE HALL and it was that film that inspired the film’s structure, which dances back and forth between past and the present.
I’m beginning to notice the terms “Women’s Film” and “Gay Film” are seen as dirty words. “Iranian film” is a bit better- more highbrow, but still a chore. The “Iranian Film” is the DVD that arrives and holds up the flow of your Netflix queue for about a month. The one you keep promising to watch on Sunday night, but instead find yourself glued to MISERY, which happens to be on TV that night. I wanted to make a film that didn’t feel like “taking your medicine.” It’s a comedy, but beneath the surface we’ve set out to communicate something very real about the complexity of being openly bisexual, the subtle rivalry and love between siblings and the crushing expectations that come along with being the child of immigrants.
Iranian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan is the co-creator and star of the critically acclaimed web series THE SLOPE, a comedy that follows a pair of superficial, homophobic lesbians in love. Her first feature, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Desiree was featured as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” and will appear on the next season of GIRLS. She has a BA from Smith College and an MFA from NYU’s Grad Film Program.
- The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)
- Appropriate Behavior (2015)
- Nose Job (2010) (short)
Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
- 1/28/18 – Congratulations to Desiree Akhavan, writer/director/star of Appropriate Behavior, who last night won the 2018 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for her new film The Miseducation of Cameron Post! – link
- 3/7/18 – “Categorisation is also an issue that affected Desiree Akhavan, writer, director and star of 2015’s Appropriate Behaviour, and the US Grand Jury Prize-winning The Miseducation of Cameron Post, at this year’s Sundance. Even though Appropriate Behaviour is a dramedy exploring female sexuality and identity, and therefore well within the sphere of suitable material for a woman director, the reception of Akhavan’s film can be seen as indicative of a tendency to situate women in relation to other women filmmakers, to compare and label them, instating something like a ‘one at a time’ rule. Appropriate Behaviour offers a candid portrait of sex and relationships and following Akhavan’s guest-role in Girls, the press repeatedly referred to her as ‘the next Lena Dunham’.” – link
- 9/2/18 – “Appropriate Behavior is sort of like Annie Hall if Woody Allen were a bisexual Persian girl living in Park Slope.” David Ehrlich, Film.com – link