Desiree Akhavan (born December 27, 1984) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter and actress based in New York. She was born in New York City. She is best known for her 2014 feature film debut Appropriate Behavior, and her 2018 film The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
Early life and education
Akhavan was born in New York City in 1984. Both of Akhavan's parents fled to the United States following the Iranian Revolution in 1979; Akhavan has stated in interviews that they now identify as American. Her father has not returned to Iran since the 1980s, though Akhavan occasionally visited family overseas as a child. As a child, Akhavan lived in New Jersey before her family moved to Rockland, New York. As a commuting student, Akhavan attended the Horace Mann School, an independent prep school in The Bronx, for her high school years. During this period of time, Akhavan struggled with feelings of loneliness: "My life was in New York City but I would sleep in the suburbs and I didn’t know anyone there. I didn’t have friends and I didn’t have a life, other than watching television and movies."
Akhavan has attributed her first experiences with American culture through watching TV shows and films. She began writing plays when she was 10 years old and began acting in plays at 13 years old.
Akhavan studied Film and Theatre at Smith College, a women's college in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she was "a bit of a loner". After graduating in 2007, she studied film directing as a graduate student at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She also spent a year studying abroad at Queen Mary, University of London.
Akhavan made her first short film Two Drink Minimum while studying in London as a graduate student. In 2010, she wrote and directed the short film Nose Job.
Akhavan has regularly appeared in her own work following her writing, directing, and acting in the lesbian-themed web series The Slope. She and Ingrid Jungermann, her creative partner, were named to Filmmaker's 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2012. The series premiered in 2011.
In 2014, Akhavan's film Appropriate Behavior, in which she plays an alternative version of herself, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was first written as her senior thesis paper as a graduate student at New York University. Although it is inspired by personal events in Akhavan's life, such as the break up of her first lesbian relationship, she has asserted that the film is not autobiographical. That year, she was also selected for the Sundance Institute's Episodic Story Lab for her pilot script Switch Hitter.
In 2015, Akhavan was the President of the Queer Palm jury at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
Channel 4 commissioned a sitcom called The Bisexual to be written, directed by and starring Akhavan. It aired on October 10, 2018 in the U.K. and on November 16, 2018 in the U.S. The sitcom explores misconceptions of bisexuality. In an interview with UK's Bazaar, she said, "To me that was the perfect way to handle bisexuality, through the lens of a lesbian."
In November 2016, it was announced Akhavan would write, direct and produce The Miseducation of Cameron Post, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, and Sasha Lane. The critically acclaimed film was officially selected for the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Toronto LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, Outfest, and the San Francisco Indie Film Festival, earning multiple nominations and awards.
On November 17, 2018, Akhavan attended the Vulture Festival, speaking at a sit-down conversation alongside actresses Chloë Grace Moretz and Tatum O’Neal to discuss working in the film industry.
Currently, Akhavan is working on a memoir, Late Bloomer, a collection of personal essays, to be published in 2020.
In the same interview, Akhavan talks about her struggles as a female filmmaker in Late Bloomer, and she refers to herself as an “unattractive," “lonely,” and “very awkward teenager.”
Desiree Akhavan is an activist in advocating the LGBTQ culture in film industry. When she pitched The Bisexual to Hollywood in 2015, she was rejected by all the networks in LA. In her interview with Bazaar magazine, she said, “I was rejected everywhere.” She expressed her feelings to the rejection by saying, “because Americans are terrified of female sexuality,” on Twitter.
Her work has put the queer female stories forefront among the other male-lead stories, such as in her films The Miseducation of Cameron Post, The Bisexual, and Appropriate Behaviour.
When Akhavan was asked about the future of queer TV in her interview with Bazaar, she said, “There’s less of a separatist feeling the way we had at the time The L Word was being produced, so I think more queer subject matter is inching its way into mainstream television.”
In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event widely considered a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named her one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people".
Akhavan identifies herself as a bisexual woman and a Brooklynite. She often explores her bisexuality within her work. She currently lives in Hackney, London. She has a brother who is a urologist.
Awards and nominations
|2014||Independent Spirit Award||Best Debut Script||Appropriate Behavior||Nominated|
|San Diego Asian Film Festival||Grand Jury Award||Won|
|2018||Sundance Film Festival||Grand Jury Prize - U.S. Dramatic||The Miseducation of Cameron Post||Won|
|2018||Dallas International Film Festival||Grand Jury Prize||The Miseducation of Cameron Post||Nominated|
|2018||Molodist International Film Festival||Sunny Bunny Prize||The Miseducation of Cameron Post||Nominated|
|2018||Seattle International Film Festival||Futurewave Youth Jury Award||The Miseducation of Cameron Post||Nominated|
|2018||Sydney Film Festival||Sydney Film Prize||The Miseducation of Cameron Post||Nominated|
|2018||São Paulo International Film Festival||New Directors Competition||The Miseducation of Cameron Post|||Nominated|
|2018||Transatlantyk Festival: Lodz||Transatlantyk Distribution Award||The Miseducation of Cameron Post||Nominated|
|2018||Valladolid International Film Festival||Silver Spike||The Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Miseducation of Cameron Post||Won|
|2018||Valladolid International Film Festival||Youth Jury Award||The Miseducation of Cameron Post||Nominated|
|2018||Valladolid International Film Festival||Golden Spike||The Miseducation of Cameron Post||Nominated|