"How is programming people to hate themselves not emotional abuse?" asks Cameron Post in this black comedy about sexuality and the ways in which religion seeks to control, suppress and shape desire.
"The book spoke really honestly about coming of age and it just happened to be gay. Cameron's gayness was the whole plot but it still didn't feel like a gay issue story. It didn't feel condescending or preachy or affected. It felt just as relatable and truthful as all other really good YA novels," she says, "I always thought if I were to make a movie, I would focus on the last 200 pages with her time at the conversion centre."
Akhavan and producer Cecilia Fruguiele were discussing possible future projects and she gave Fruguiele The Miseducation of Cameron Post to consider. Akhavan says, "The minute Cecilia started reading, she said, 'This is our next film.'"
The thing that really stands out for a viewer is just how pointless and destructive these conversion centres can be. It really highlights the staffs' complete lack of qualification or scientific basis for their processes. As Cameron remarks in the film, "You're just making it up as you go along!"
Akhavan says, "I love stories that take place in rehabilitation centres and I've always wanted to do a project that talked about what it felt like to be in those rooms," she remarks. "It's about 'getting better,' but what is that? It looks different for each person. People also create alliances on the basis of how committed they are to getting better or to not getting better. I was looking at the book again and it hit me: what is 'better' when you can't 'pray away the gay?' That was the kernel of an idea that Cecilia and I started with in writing the screenplay."
"I had chosen to take some time off and basically reboot my career," she explains, "I wanted to make movies that felt poignant and inspiring to me as a person and relevant to the state of world."