Be Like Others

Director: Tanaz Eshaghian
Screenwriters: Tanaz Eshaghian

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


In Iran, according to Islamic law, homosexuality is punishable by death. Ironically, sex-change operations are not only legal; they are embraced by a society that accepts male or female but nothing in between. Iran’s gender-reassignment industry is in a veritable boom. Attracted to members of the same sex, yet forced to deny their true selves, a young generation of men and women adopt the only identity legally allowed for them—transsexual. Socially conditioned and shamed into denying their sexuality, queer youths resort, seemingly willingly, to a most drastic measure: gender-reassignment surgery.

Every day in the Tehran medical office of Dr. Bahram Mir-Jalali, the country’s most prominent sex-change surgeon, the waiting room is filled with new candidates for gender reassignment. The doctor, a hero to his patients, performs more sex-change operations in a year than the entire country of France does in 10 years.

Filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian has crafted an intimate, yet alarming, exploration of the grip of Iranian theocracy and the power of internalized shame. Seen through the lens of those living on the fringes, Be Like Others is a provocative testament to the lengths some people will go to conform. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has notoriously proclaimed that there are no homosexuals in Iran. Oddly enough, he’s right. Now we know why.

— David Courier

Screening Details


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