Jafar Panahi's latest is a hopeful portrait of the titular city set inside a cab
Taxi Tehran is the third film completed by Jafar Panahi since he was sentenced to a 20-year ban on filmmaking, a punishment imposed on him in 2010 by the Iranian state. It feels a more optimistic, expansive work than either This Is Not a Film (2011) or Closed Curtain (2013). It may just be that Panahi has dared to venture outdoors and in so doing has broken the suffocation of his confinement. His supposed job as a Tehran taxi driver gives him access to a collection of characters and provocative opinions that are captured by a camera mounted on the dashboard of his vehicle.
During his spell as a driver, Panahi encounters a group of individuals from the liberal to the reactionary – including a lawyer, a cheery supplier of bootleg DVDs who recognises his illustrious cabbie, and a badly injured man whose wife begs them to record her husband’s will on a smartphone. He also collects his precocious young niece, who starts filming him for a school project.
The result is a subtle portrait of a city and its people that can only have been scripted and masterminded by a playful Panahi. Characters comment on issues of justice and freedom and there is both wit and wisdom in these encounters. Asked if a certain film is worth watching, Panahi observes: 'All films deserve to be seen. The rest is a matter of taste.'
There are times when Taxi Tehran feels closer to the diary-style essays of Nanni Moretti, than the more obvious influence of fellow Iranian Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten. The connecting thread that runs through Taxi Tehran is the sense that technology has the potential to revolutionise life in Iran and give Panahi and others a voice that would otherwise be silenced. It is a bittersweet film but one with a surprising degree of warmth, a generosity of spirit and a sense of hope.
Selected release from Fri 30 Oct.