|Born||8 September 1974|
|Known for||Be Like Others, Love Crimes of Kabul|
For her début feature-length film Be Like Others, a provocative look at transgender women in Iran choosing to undergo sex change surgery, she returned to Iran for the first time in 25 years. Be Like Others, a BBC 2, France 5, ITVS production, premiered at the 2008 Sundance film festival and went on to win the Teddy special jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Best Documentary at Noor Iranian Film Festival, as well as the ELSE Siegessaule Reader's Choice Award and was nominated for an Emmy award. It has been invited to over thirty film festivals worldwide and had its U.S. television premiere on HBO in June 2009. In 2011, she completed Love Crimes of Kabul, a documentary film inside a women's prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, focusing on "moral crimes", for HBO.
Her first film I Call Myself Persian, completed in 2002, told the story of how Iranians living in the U.S. were affected by prejudice and xenophobia after the September 11 attacks. In Love Iranian-American Style, completed in 2006, she filmed her traditional Iranian family, both in New York and Los Angeles, California, documenting their obsession with marrying her off and her own cultural ambivalence.
Eshaghian's Love Iranian-American Style provides a first-person account of the documentarian's struggles with the prospects of dating and marriage, as she hits the age of 25. As an Iranian-Jewish-American who lives with her single mother, Eshagian has traditionally restricted her dating patterns to Caucasian men, but the pivotal birthday arrives and sends her mother into a panic; she thus avows to set Tanaz up in a traditional arranged marriage with an Iranian groom. Tanaz agrees - barely - and thus embarks on a series of dates with prospective candidates for the "big M." Her technique consists of setting the suitors up in one-on-one, on-camera interviews, in which she asks them, point blank, to espouse their feelings about dating and marriage, leading to a series of brutally honest and occasionally hilarious confessions. Eshagian also unearths old boyfriends and films them expostulating on why they broke up with her. On another level, the film sees the director plunging, headfirst, into a cultural abyss as she attempts to define herself via ethnic identity - and finds herself being torn, sharply, between the Iranian ideal of a fixed, long term union and the distinctly American tendencies to play the field and test the waters before committing.
The Iranian Jewish tradition views marriage much more as a group alliance than as an individual affair like in Western culture. The Iranian family doesn’t perceive bounds that create privacy for couples; instead, the family expects to know all about what is happening in a relationship. Tanaz finds this uncomfortable because she distinguishes between her family of orientation, the one that raised her, and her family of procreation, the family she will create through marriage, and she wants that family to be independent following American culture.
Tanaz was raised in an extended family household—one that includes several generations of relatives. In American culture, families are neolocal—they establish new homes when they marry. Although Tanaz’s family wants her to engage in endogamy at first and remain within their cultural community, Tanaz convinces them she has to marry someone of American culture (exogamy).
The traditions of working for one’s husband and marrying young are examples of gender roles in Iranian Jewish culture. The documentary describes a wife’s role as the caretaker of the husband, essentially submissive. This role provides a potential insight into the gender stereotypes of their culture, which may view men as dominant, superior, or more capable in certain respects. This is an example of a domestic-public dichotomy that devalues women’s importance. Furthermore, the disparity between the expectations for women as opposed to for men demonstrates gender stratification—varying respect for the individual based on gender—that supports a male-dominated hierarchy.
She currently resides in New York City.