Sunday, October 25, 2015

This Is Not a Film

In film nist; documentary, Iran, 2011; D: Jafar Panahi, S: Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb

Director Jafar Panahi is in his Tehran apartment, awaiting the appeal on the verdict that placed him under house arrest and imposed a six year prison sentence as well as a 20 year ban of making movies due to "propaganda against the government". Out of boredom, Panahi thus decides to use a camera to make a documentary about himself, instead. He explains the outline for his unapproved script - a girl is locked inside the house by her parents who want her to prevent to apply to study in Tehran - and re-enacts some scenes in it, but stops, disillusioned about the process. He observes the fireworks outside, feeds his pet lizard and gets a visit by a neighbor who wants him to watch after her dog for a while. Finally, he exits with a garbage man in the elevator and takes a glimpse at the outside streets.

"This Is Not a Film" is a brave minimalistic meta-documentary by Jafar Panahi, a inventive Iranian director who seems to be able to make a movie out of anything. In this case, it is a 'one-man-show' - ironically, partially directed by the Tehran government itself, when it narrowed the possibilities on Panahi - by and about Panahi, who - not without irony - follows his own routine under house arrest while waiting for the appeal of the verdict that banned him from making movies for 20 years. Since it seems that he is a die-hard cineast, Panahi deliciously spoofs this decision by looking into the camera at times and declaring that "this cannot be considered a film" 'tongue-in-cheek' style, since there are no actors, while at the same presenting a script that was not approved by the authorities as well as clips from his previous films (such as the problematic moment when his child actress decided to abandon filming of "The Mirror"). There are several humorous situations (Panahi lamenting how the claws of his pet lizard are too sharp when the reptile is climbing on his shoulder; while surfing on the internet, he comments: "Everything is censored"...) and the irony is not lost even in the closing credits, some of which have the following text: "Special thanks: .......... .......... ........". One could argue that the pace is overstretched at times and that not much is happening between his four walls, but Panahi could theoretically even confront this argument with the counter-argument that even this is a authentic depiction of his time and age. It may be a sparse documentary, but it is all the more effective essay about the free human spirit.


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