Coming from two countries at odds with each other, Iranian-American Leila (Layla Mohammadi) strives to find balance and embrace her opposing cultures, while boldly challenging the labels society is so quick to project upon her. When her family reunites in New York City for her father’s heart transplant, Leila navigates her relationships at arm’s length in an effort to keep her “real” life separate from her family life. However, when her secret is unceremoniously revealed, so are the distinct parallels between her life and that of her mother Shireen (Niousha Noor). Punctuated by a bright color palette, snappy comedic relief, and vibrant dance numbers, The Persian Version delivers an honest portrayal of a woman who remains unapologetically herself, blended seamlessly into a heartfelt story about family, belonging, and the undeniable influence of pop music.
Winning both the Audience Award and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, writer-director-producer Maryam Keshavarz delivers a universal and timely story of the Iranian and the Iranian-American experience.
MARYAM KESHAVARZ is an Iranian-American writer, director, and producer. Maryam was born in New York City but spent most summers, and some of her school years, in Shiraz, Iran. This bi- national childhood naturally made her a translator of cultures, two cultures often at odds with each other. Maryam initially was pursuing a PhD in Near Eastern Studies focusing on Iran and Gender Studies but 9/11 propelled her to enter the media arena to try and change the narrative.
While an MFA student at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, her first short film THE DAY I DIED, an adolescent love triangle between a brother, a sister and her best friend, won a dozen awards including the Gold Teddy at the Berlinale.
Maryam’s award-winning feature documentary THE COLOR OF LOVE, an exploration of how love has changed in Iran, garnered multiple accolades such as the IDA’s David Volper Best Student Documentary Award and Full Frame’s Spectrum Award and has been broadcast internationally.
Maryam’s first narrative feature fiction film, CIRCUMSTANCE, premiered to overwhelming critical acclaim at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The film won the coveted Sundance Audience Award and Maryam was named to Deadline.com’s 2011 Directors to Watch. CIRCUMSTANCE has won over a dozen international awards including Best First Film at the Rome Film Festival and the Audience & Best Actress Awards at Outfest. The Independent Spirit Award nominated film was described by the New York Times as “Swirling and sensuous,” by the Wall Street Journal as “Supremely cinematic,” and by the Hollywood Reporter as “Amazingly accomplished.” The film was released in the US by Participant Media & Roadside Attractions and went on to be released theatrically in over a dozen countries in 2012. The film also was a huge sensation in Iran where it was the top black market DVD, and also caused Maryam to be banned from Iran.
Maryam’s sophomore feature VIPER CLUB starring Academy Award Winner Susan Sarandon and Golden Globe Winner Edie Falco had its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2018 and was released theatrically by Roadside Attractions. THE PERSIAN VERSION, a semi- autobiographical epic dramedy of migration, family, and the secrets we keep, traverses decades and toggles between the United States and Iran, is Maryam’s third feature. THE PERSIAN VERSION premiered in Main Competition at the Sundance Film Festival 2023, where it won the U.S. Dramatic Competition Audience Award and The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Keshavarz is the first director in Sundance history to win the Audience Award twice.
For her fourth narrative feature, Maryam is in late development on THE LAST HAREM, a gender bending genre defying historical dramedy set in the early years of 19th century Persian Qajar King. When the young queer king falls in love with a cross dressing musician – the rebellious couple will challenge the conservative international forces that surround them and try to change the very fabric of Persian society. THE LAST HAREM has garnered several high profile awards for development including the Hearst Screenwriters Grant, the San Francisco Film Society/ KRF Screenwriting Award, the prestigious Creative Capital Fund, and invitation to the Yaddo Writers Residency.
Maryam has directed episodic television as well as selling pilot scripts to BBC America, FX, and CBS Studios and is in development on several new original series including a transnational dramedy entitled TWO LIVES about two lovers who almost fall in love, if only they would meet.
Maryam’s production company, MaraKesh Films, focuses on amplifying women & BIPOC voices and recently produced the award winning film ROSA that was funded by Tribeca/Chanel Through Her Lens and aired on HBOMax, where it was a top trending film in its week of release. That film is presently being developed as a series.
Maryam has taught at NYU Grad Film, lead writers lab for the Black List/ Women in Film, been a mentor for Film Independent’s Project Involve, and held numerous filmmaking workshops at universities across the US. Maryam is an active member of the Writers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America, leading talk backs with fellow filmmakers and taking part in numerous panels advocating diversity in the industry.
Maryam holds an MFA from NYU Tisch School in the Arts, an MA from University of Michigan in Near Eastern Studies, and a BA in Women’s Studies and Comparative Literature from Northwestern University. She is also an alumna of the Sundance Writers and Directors Lab.