Jafar Panahi Films His Own StoryIranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, an internationally acclaimed director of narrative features, was arrested in July, 2009, charged with planning to make a film against the ruling regime. An international who's who of prominent film producers, directors and actors, as well as human rights activists from around the world, signed petitions demanding Panahi's release. The filmmaker, who claimed that he was being mistreated in prison and that his family was being threatened, was released on $200,000 bail in May, 2010. As a result of a hearing in November, 2010, Panahi was sentenced to six years in jail, and a ban from making or directing movies, or writing screenplays, or giving any interviews with members of the press from Iran or foreign media, or leaving Iran for 20 years.
Despite widely supported campaigns from Amnesty International and Cine Foundational International to protest the sentence, Panahi lost his appeal to reduce his prison sentence and shorten the duration of the ban.
Panahi shot This Is Not A Film in his Tehran apartment, while he was under house arrest. Although he could be put back in jail at any time, he defies his sentence by making This Is Not A Film, using digital cameras, including an iPhone, to document his daily life. We see him eating breakfast, talking to his lawyer and his wife on the phone, and taking care of the family's pet iguana. And, remarking that he is not breaking the law and his personal restrictions by reading his film, he asks his colleague, filmmaker Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, to record him as he reads the screenplay, describing what the action would be.
The film was shot clandestinely and smuggled out of Iran to the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. Panahi was not allowed to leave Iran to attend either festival.
This unusual not-a-film is fascinating, and very moving. Not much heavy drama happens during the film, but Panahi is a very strong character and he invites us to observe his dilemma in a very intimate way. Not much happens during the not-a-film, which was shot clandestinely and smuggled out of Iran.
In This Is Not A Film, there is no direct discussion of the history leading up to Panahi's current situation, nor is there any statement about the political situation in Iran. There is no apparent agenda to gain support for a repeal and easing Panahi's uncertainty about his future. Nor are there any direct complaints expressed against the authorities who placed Panahi under arrest and banned his creative expressions. Yet, knowing the background story, you fully understand the underlying anguish and anxiety Panahi is feeling -- and, by extension, are provoked to consider the experiences of others living in Iran and other countries with repressive regimes are experiencing.
Panahi is brilliant. His not-a-film is a must-not-be-missed.
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- Title: This Is Not A Film
- Director: Jafar Panahi
- US Theatrical Release Date: February 29, 2012
- Running Time: 75 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Location: Tehran, Iran
- Language: Persian, with English subtitles
- Distribution Company: Palisades Tartan