Synopsis by Mark Deming
While homosexuality is considered a major taboo in Iran, as in most Muslim states, the Koran makes no specific mention of transsexuality -- people who are psychologically oriented to one gender while possessing the sex organs of another -- and after a decree was passed down by the Ayatollah Khomeni permitting sexual reassignment surgery for transsexuals, the nation has shown a tolerance for transgendered individuals that's rare in the Middle East. Filmmakers Negin Kianfar and Daisy Mohr offer filmed portraits of three Iranian transsexuals and how they live their lives in this documentary. Mahtab is a man in the outside world, but lives as a woman at home, which angers his father (who considers him an embarrassment to the family) and confuses his mother (who can't imagine why he would choose to live as a woman in a society that gives men so many advantages), though they've come to accept his decision to have a sex change. Saye, meanwhile, is a woman trapped in a man's body who has not been as lucky as Mahtab -- after repeated violence from her father, she was banished from the family home, and now shares an apartment with her lover, Afshin. Afshin is also a transsexual, but since becoming a man, he insists Saye stay home and observe the cultural restrictions that apply to women in a fundamentalist Muslim society. The Birthday was screened as part of 2007 NewFest, a New York-based festival for films with Gay and Lesbian themes.