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Palm Springs

The Palm Springs International Film Festival played host to a fabulous array of movies and movie stars. The Festival featured a stellar line-up of more than 175 films from 60 countries, special events and gala receptions. 

The Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films has become known world-wide for the extraordinary community of filmmakers it attracts, and for the quality and scope of its programming. This celebrated event is the largest festival of its kind in America, showcasing over 320 short films each year from more than 40 countries, with a library of more than 2700 films available to film buyers, industry and press in the Film Market running concurrently with the Festival.


'Aban +Khorshid'. Interview with producer Tommee May

It is hard to imagine that even today we live in a world full of hate and intolerance, especially in matters of love. While many still argue about the morality of homosexuality all over the world, some have become martyrs in places where same sex love is punishable by death. "Aban + Khorshid" tells the true story of two young men who were executed for being homosexual and merely for loving each other. Tommee May’s short film "Aban + Khorshid" screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year and later went on to screen at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival.


In an interview with producer Tommee May, here is what she has to say:

ME: When did you first learn about Aban and Khorshid and decide you wanted to tell their story?

TOMMEE: I remember seeing some of these heartbreaking images years ago, and didn’t really know how to place it or know what to do with it. Darwin, the brilliant writer and director of Aban + Khorshid, is the one who brought the imagined story of these two lovers to my attention, sharing the photo of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhonihad as inspiration for his writing. I don’t want to speak for Darwin but my observation of him is that he was so deeply connected he could not not tell this story.

ME: Why do you think people are so afraid of homosexuality? Why do you think people always want to fight love and hold up violence? 

TOMMEE: I believe that people may be afraid of something that’s perceived to be different from the norm. If we are taking these metaphorical manuscripts such as the bible literally, and this is the belief system that’s ingrained in us to make us safe, then another belief or an action out of what we deem to be so, can be very confronting. If from birth we are taught by our family, our society, and our religion that homosexuality is not okay, it may be frightening to begin to explore that perhaps that belief system does not serve me, maybe there’s a broader perspective, which can make us feel “wrong” and if I’m wrong about that what else am I wrong about? Once we begin to explore and broaden our point of view, that freedom can actually be quite terrifying at first. I was born half Jewish and half Christian so I was blessed with this religious confusion, and got to go to church and to temple and examine various texts and underneath it all (in my opinion), it’s all pointing to the same thing: love. Love is so vulnerable. It leaves us open and innocent. There is no separation or barriers. I think people believe they need to protect themselves or they will get eaten, and thus we fight rather than be willing to risk getting eaten, and standing for love anyway.

ME: Is this your first film at PSSF? How has the response been? 

TOMMEE: This is my first film at PSSF and it’s been great! I’ve been blown away by people’s responses to the film. I love watching it with an audience, hearing the heavy silences, hearing the focused attention, hearing the tears, hearing the hope. And we got best of the fest, and got to have another screening so that’s rewarding to receive.

ME: What do you hope the journey of this film will be? 

TOMMEE: We shot this film over a year ago and it’s interesting timing that it’s traveling around the world right now because it feels like now more than ever people are really wanting to take a stand. There is more awareness that homosexuality is punishable by death in several countries. In Los Angeles, it’s been brought to the attention that the owner of The Beverly Hills Hotel has authorized the stoning to death of homosexuals in Brunei, and this information has taken a toll on its business. This is a hugely popular iconic hotel and with this information, industry professionals are no longer holding their lunch meetings, and in fact are staging boycotts. People want to make a difference in this world, and film is such a powerful medium in terms of being able to reach a global population. We have recently been asked to screen in Hong Kong, Ankara, Prague, Oslo and that’s very exciting to me. So the film is taking the journey I hoped it would- it’s starting conversations all over the world.

ME: Will you make a feature next? 

TOMMEE: Darwin and I are working on the feature version of Aban + Khorshid.


Interview by Vanessa McMahon

View trailer here:

About Tommee May: The young producer behind this powerful and touching film is Tommee May. Tommee, is the founder of Come What May Productions. Her film credits include the comedy GOATS starring David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga, which she co-produced and also starred in; THE ROMANTICS staring Katie Holmes, Josh Duhamel, and Anna Paquin, which she served as associate producer;  and most recently, she can be seen as Mia in Nick Cassavetes’ YELLOW.  She also co-created and starred in THE ONE 'N DONE series which can be seen on Funny or Die.  Tommee studied under the tutelage of Mike Nichols and George Morrison while in NY, and performed in several off-broadway plays.  Her upcoming short films include ILLUSION, and DELICIOUS AMBIGUITY, which Tommee both produced and stars in.


“A beautifully filmed and tragic story, based on real life events, about freedoms here that carry the death penalty elsewhere."- 2014 Jury Statement from the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)

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About Palm Springs

Lee David


Palm Springs,

United States

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