This is Not A Film
- Gail Tolley
- 12 April 2012
A snapshot into the life of embattled Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi
This is Not a Film shows us the world of acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi - currently under house arrest in Tehran and facing a 6 year prison sentence and 20 year ban on filmmaking - all for planning to make a film that was deemed by the Iranian authorities as critical of the government.
The film was smuggled out of Iran to the Cannes Film Festival, apparently on a USB stick hidden in a cake. It is a rough and ready snapshot of a day in the life of the director as he discusses filmmaking and waits for news from his lawyer about his case. It shows first hand the frustration of an artist facing censorship - the desire to create when it’s the one thing you can’t do, the sense of waiting and the unknown on the horizon. In one moving sequence Panahi fervently describes scenes from his unmade film - outlining the shots, the actions of the characters and the dialogue only to stop suddenly in the realisation that ‘If we could tell a film, then why make a film?’.
All this is against a backdrop of the wider political context: Panahi receives phonecalls from his lawyer discussing attempts to reduce his sentence and at one point from his filmmaker friend as he is pulled over and searched by the police.
Amongst this sombre fare there are moments of humour too - the director’s pet iguana, Igi, occasionally wanders into shot, an absurd presence, and there is an amusing sequence where a neighbour tries to leave her noisy dog for Panahi to look after (a short-lived endeavour). But overall what lingers is the tragedy of an internationally celebrated filmmaker who is so passionate to tell the stories of his country's people and who now can't. This is an important film, a valuable insight into contemporary Iran and the challenges facing their artistic communities.
On selected release now.