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Meet Desiree Akhavan, the new indie queen

The filmmaker talks about her big new breakthrough.

Desiree Akhavan wrote, directed and starred in the film “Appropriate BehaviorGetty

This is a big weekend for Desiree Akhavan. Her new indie “Appropriate Behavior” — which she wrote, directed and stars in, playing Shirin, a hip, Brooklyn-based, bisexual child of Iranian immigrants — opens in limited theatrical release and VOD. And the 30-year-old makes her “Girls” debut Sunday, as Chandra in Season Four of the HBO hit show. We squeezed into her busy schedule to discuss all of it.


How close is “Appropriate Behavior” to your experience of coming out to your family?
It’s not exactly close to my experience with my family. I never lied to them about living with somebody. But I saw friends do that with their families. It was important to have distinctions between the character’s story and my own. There is something about the fact that it’s me in front of the camera that feels [to people] that it’s the story of my life.


In a way, it’s like coming out twice. Which is easier coming out to your family, or the public?
Oh my god — much, much harder to come out to your family. It feels like you’re telling this shameful secret. Once you do that you’re free not to give a s— about the world.


The movie has funny scenes amongst the seriousness.
I think of this film as a comedy. I think of myself as a comedian. I love Louis CK who gets very dark, and looks at life and the futility of it all.

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You say “Annie Hall” influenced you. How so?
I wanted to take a couple you knew were doomed from the start and see if you could fall in love with them over the course of the film, which I think “Annie Hall” does. I grew up on romantic films, thinking if you have real love you hold onto it forever and it’s indestructible. Sometimes you have beautiful meaningful relationships with good people and they don’t work out.


What did you think when Lena Dunham contacted you?
Lena is very sweet. She’s a big figure in popular culture right now, but that all goes out the window.


Is it safe to say this won’t be shown in Iran?
It is safe to say there will be no official screenings of this film in Iran. But I hope someone smuggles in a copy illegally.


Find out more: The backstory
Akhavan was born in New York City and grew up in Rockland County. “I didn’t fit in at all, but I’m not going to blame that on my ethnicity,” says the filmmaker, whose parents fled Iran during 1979’s Islamic Revolution. “I was ugly and awkward. In high school it was all about if I could sit with those cool people, I’d fit in. It changed for me as I became older. I am searching for my home, my people. There is no world I don’t fit into that I want to be a part of.”

 
 
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