Dog Sweat

Dog Sweat

A scene from DOG SWEAT, a film by Hossein Keshavarz. Picture courtesy IndiePix Studios. All rights reserved.

Dog Sweat

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  • Deluxe Art Films

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Dog Sweat (2010/2011)

Opened: 11/11/2011 Limited

Quad Cinema/NYC11/11/2011 - 11/17/20117 days
Laemmle's Musi...11/18/2011 - 11/24/20117 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Facebook

Genre: Iranian Drama (In Persian w/English subtitles)

Rated: Unrated


Using the subversive urgency of cinema verite, the lives of six young people unfold in present day Iran. Misunderstood by their families and oppressed by conservative Islamic society, they act out their personal desires behind closed doors. A feminist finds herself in an affair with a married man; new lovers search for a place to be physically intimate; a gay man is faced with an arranged marriage; a female pop singer risks exposure; and a grief-stricken son lashes out at fundamentalists. Shot clandestinely throughout Tehran before the elections of 2009, Hossein Keshavarz's provocative film, DOG SWEAT, challenges the status quo by providing the new generation of Iranians a fervent voice of rebellion.

Director's Statement

A Tapestry of Voices

It is almost shocking to think of Iranian teenagers as preoccupied by sex, parties and social status. Why haven't we seen these images before? This is because Iranian media, which is controlled by a religious fundamentalist government, only allows images of a nation of pious believers.  The Western media, which is pre-occupied with the threat that Iran poses for the West, compounds this by never showing what lies beneath the veil.  We made DOG SWEAT to show Iran the way it truly is. The film centers on the lives of six characters that sometimes intersect, weaving their separate stories into a tapestry of diverse voices and experiences.

An Act of Speaking Out

I was uniquely able to make this film because I have spent my life between America and Iran.  I understand Iranian culture and know how to convey it in a way that Americans can relate to.  For example, Americans often see the women's obligation to wear the veil as the paramount woman's issue.  However, for Iranian women the ability to live the way they want to -- to go to university, to go to work, to marry the person that they want -- is much more important.  Rather than focusing on the exotic image of the veil, DOG SWEAT centers on issues that Iranians confront like the conflict between family/societal expectations versus individual desires, things that viewers emotionally understand no matter where they come.  

DOG SWEAT shows the real Iran, a portrayal not sanctioned by the government -- for this reason everyone who decided to get involved in the film took a great risk.  Artists are increasingly frustrated by the expansion of censorship which forces them to alter their works so much that they become untruthful.  We gathered a group of like-minded artists to work under these difficult circumstances to create a film that would spur a public discourse that reflects the reality of people's lives, not an imagined Islamic ideology.  

DOG SWEAT explores the dichotomy of traditional and modern culture in Iran.  Thus we see arranged marriages, but we also see a boyfriend and girlfriend who search the city for a place where they can be alone together.  We see the religious classes, but we also see people who, according to the religious classes, don't have a place in society.  When President Ahmadinjad's recently claimed that, "Gays don't exist in Iran," he was trying to deny a voice to many of thousands of people who intensely desire and deserve to be part of the public discourse.  By telling the stories of ordinary Iranians across a wide range of experiences we hope to create a new national dialogue.

DOG SWEAT was filmed in two parts throughout all of Tehran before the elections of 2009. The first half we shot in Winter 2008 and then we went back to finish the film in Spring 2009.

During production we were under constant risk of harassment and arrest.  We took this risk because we believed deeply in the project. We believe it is vital to show the way Iran actually is, both for an Iranian audience and for all audiences around the globe.

The Genesis of DOG SWEAT

During film school I developed a script called This Modern Love about Iranians who travel to the Philippines for vacation that explored how Iranians act on their holidays in foreign countries that have much fewer social limitations.  (The script went through the Script Clinic at the Berlin Film Festival).

When I was selecting cast and crew for the This Modern Love I become friends with a lot of the recent graduates of the film and theater programs.  I watched the projects they were making -- short, underground films about their lives and their relationships. They weren't bothering censoring their scripts to get approval from the film board.  They weren't even bothering having women wear veils indoors.  They did this because they wanted to make a film about that reflects their lives, even if they knew their films wouldn't have an audience.  Inside Iran, the films wouldn't be shown because of their un-Islamic content; outside of Iran the festivals are looking for only very particular types of films from Iranian filmmakers.

As we were in pre-production for This Modern Love, which would have been filmed with the proper permissions and permits and would have featured well-known Iranian actors, my mother was in a nearly fatal car accident.  I dropped everything I was doing and focused on nursing her back in health, first in Iran, then in the United States when she was strong enough to travel,

Once I got back to Iran almost a year later things had change -- both in the country and in terms of my own feelings.  My previous script was written at the tale end of reformist president's Khatami term.  Now it was well into Ahmadinejad's time in office and he had already started a crackdown on artists and dissidents.  While I was nursing my mother back to health in Tehran, there were protests at the local university about the recent firings of professors for their supposed ideological leanings.  At night when I would go back to my apartment I would see the riot police come in.  And in the morning I would see students in the emergency room, who were severely beaten.  They would receive medical treatment, but then flee from the hospital to avoid being questioned by the police.  Of course, none of it was reported on the news inside or even outside the country.  This experience stayed with me for a long time. I felt like the times had changed and the script that I had spent so long on was no longer truthful to reality.

At the same time I was inspired by this unseen generation of Iranian filmmakers that I had met.  Thus I decided to write a new script (DOG SWEAT) that encompassed all the things that my friends and I had seen and felt, even if it would have to be shot underground, with the fear of being harassed or arrested.  

There is a new wave of artists who sincerely care about being truthful, and who turn down a lot of lucrative work because their conscience won't allow them to do it.   I wanted to help bring this new wave of artists and filmmakers beyond short films that were only seen in the living rooms of fellow filmmakers.  

Making a film illegally limited us in many ways, but it also gives the film an immediacy and energy in its portrayal of real life in Iran and allowed us to tell honest stories.

A New View of Iran

The images that we see of Iran through the media are of pious women in veils and bearded fanatics. Most of the discussion centers on how much of a threat Iran poses to the rest of the world.  The truth, of course, is much more multi-faceted.

Iranian is one of the youngest societies on earth: over two thirds of the population is under 30-years old.  This generation -- who grew up taught to revere the ayatollahs that led the Islamic revolution, who were forced to wake up at the crack of dawn for morning prayers but who also delighted in watching American teen dramas and sneaking around the moral police to find somewhere, anywhere be free to have fun -- is realizing that their parents' ways are outdated.

This generation of youngsters is forging their own way of living -- a mix of the best of traditional and modern culture - but is doing so under an increasing government crackdown on all social and political freedoms.  Since President Ahmadinejad came into power, the moral police has been reinstated to harass youth who hang out in mixed groups of boys and girls. Random checkpoints have been set-up throughout the city to control how people dress.  The recent presidential elections inspired millions of Iranians to hope again.  Then almost overnight, those aspirations of a more open society were met with blood and repression.  Despite the shut down of every political avenue, young people still want and, and yes, still demand change.  This has created an atmosphere where anxiety and restlessness can turn suddenly to vigor and rebellion.

Parties and Politics

Oddly, at the same time as this repression, there has been an explosion of parties, binge drinking and drug use.  Paramount on the mind of many youngsters is finding the next gathering so they can dance and meet new friends and lovers.

This partying and intense insistence to be able to feel free is people's response to government repression. In a place where every aspect of one's dress and interaction with the opposite sex is dictated, having sexual relations with one's boyfriend/girlfriend is taking control of one's body.  At a time when the government wants to control what people see and hear, going to an underground power is an assertion of one's right to live the way he/she desires.  DOG SWEAT shows how people are negotiating the various demands of tradition, culture and government control in ways both unexpected and surprising.

No Official Truth

Our goal of creating a discourse with multiple points of views informed the way we structured the movie.  Using a narrative form employed by Robert Altman in Short Cuts and John Sayles in Sunshine State, the film employs multiple protagonists to show a wide variety of experiences existing side-by-side.  This is especially important because the Iranian government has tried to impose a national culture that is based on the ruling classes' interpretation of Shi'ite Islam.  People who don't fit into this narrative are ignored or marginalized.  By using the structure of a multi-protagonist story in which each major character evokes the experience of a distinct segment of Iranian society, we create a varied and multi-faceted view of life in Iran.


Hossein Keshavarz (Director, Writer, Producer, Editor)

Hossein Keshavarz's interest in story telling began, when as a history major at Northwestern University, he wrote a novella entitled, Time of the Falling Sky.  Both before and after college he lived abroad in various countries including Iran, New Zealand, Spain, and Peru.  While working in business for several years, Hossein frequently hid in the bathroom to write screenplays, leading him to decide to pursue a career in film and complete a MFA from Columbia University.

He recently served as an associate producer for Circumstance, which won the audience award at Sundance in 2011. Dog Sweat, Hossein's first feature fiction film, has won awards at International Rome and Austin and has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Dog Sweat will be released theatrically by Indiepix this November.

Maryam Azadi (Writer, Producer)

Maryam studied film in Tehran and has written for Iranian television.