WATCH: The Love Story “Aban & Khorshid” Explores The Plight Of Gay Iranians

A heartbreaking photo from 2005 led director Darwin Serink to make his latest film, Aban & Khorshid.

Inspired by the true story of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, a gay couple hanged in 2005 for allegedly raping a 13-year-old boy, the film is an intimate portrait of two forbidden lovers,  glimpsing the world in which they met moments before their execution.

Asgari and Marhoni’s case drew international attention from human-rights activists, who claim the men were executed because they were gay.

The incident—and the resulting photo from the Iranian Student News Agency of the two men’s hanging (right)—sparked outrage, concern and, for Serink, inspiration: “It is one of those images that ingrained itself in my mind and never left,” he said. “As a gay filmmaker I am using my talents to say something about the atrocities committed to gays in Iran.”

Serink is currently trying to raise enough money to finish Aban & Khorshid via Kickstarter. The project is about halfway to its goal of $25,000 by the end of October.