This Is Not a Film
It's been months since Jafar Panahi, stuck in jail, has been awaiting a verdict by the appeals court. By depicting a day in his life, Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb try to portray the deprivations looming in contemporary Iranian cinema.
This is not a film review.
I’m struggling to find the words that do this important ‘film’ justice. This Is Not a Film is a brave and inspiring documentary about censorship and the the power of cinema itself. Essential viewing.
My rating for this film is not based on how much I enjoyed it or how objectively good it is. It is based on what this documentary represents.
Iranian director Panahi was sentenced to 6 years in prison and got a 20 year ban on filmmaking. Exiled in is own appartment he shot this film with his friend using a camera and his Iphone. He managed to smuggle the final result out of Iran on a USB stick hidden in a cake, to have it shown at the Cannes film festival.
Not knowing the backstory here can probably rob watching this of its meaning. I'm glad I read up on the subject a bit before watching as what I saw…
"If we could tell a film then why make a film?" begs Jafar Panahi in This Is Not a Film as he attempts to realise his latest screenplay before a camera held by fellow director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. Banned from direction for 20 years by the same oppressive Iranian regime against which his films have spoken, Panahi finds himself simply unable to not make films: the man is frustrated beyond words to be denied the means to realise his creative inclinations. He has such terribly sad eyes as he plods about his apartment, experiencing everything through the eyes of a filmmaker yet unable to bring that vision to screen. His non-film is not just…
Jafar Panahi only appeared on my radar a week ago or so after finally watching his OFFSIDE film I'd taped before the Olympics. Suffice to say, I enjoyed that so much I wanted more.
This is a different kettle of fish. Although still a limited view on a nation and its laws, this documentary follows Panahi as he serves house arrest while awaiting sentence. His crime? To be a critical voice with his films. Now he's not allowed to make another for 20 years.
I enjoyed seeing him coming alive when talking film and I kind of wished for more of that.
I'll try to elaborate further when I have more time, but this is a real Panahi film and not just something he did out of protest or to mark time. It's genuinely cryptic and mysterious, in addition to being about being trapped. Spotted Buried in his DVD collections; others report that also visible are Bean and Hot Tub Time Machine.
Last year I asked someone in Hollywood about a film they had just seen. "The picture quality was horrible, the sound was awful. Meh meh meh, blah blah blah." Perhaps I am a paraphrasing but my response was this: how was the story? The evolution of technology now provides unlimited tools for young filmmakers, however I feel that many young people I talk to today are more concerned with something looking cool rather than an engaging story. I refer many film enthusiasts to Martin Scorsese's documentary, "My Voyage To Italy" in which he discusses the influence of Italian Neo-Realism and the conditions in which he watched those films as a kid on Elizabeth Street in New York City.
I found myself completely taken over by this movie. A film maker caged in his apartment under house arrest, desperately trying to tell a story, and outside the world rages. It's hard to exactly describe what elevates this material so, maybe it's the unparalleled authenticity of it. Whatever it is this film is important.
Jafar Panahi A Iranian filmmaker facing Jail and 20 year Ban on Filmmaking, here we him living in his Apartment awaiting Judgement, as he decides to film this progress and also get a Script that was rejected by the Goverment and Key scenes spelled out, At times a Fasinating watch, a Odd watch, but knowing the events beneath it make it compelling and what is awaiting him if verdict comes through, his crime, making a film that was anti Goverment, you do get the sense of his time and place and effects this Judgement can have, after this he got out of the country and got events filmed out too, what we are seeing here, went to Cannes and got this as a film, a big F you to his goverment, Good for him.
I have to start by saying how much I respect the director and star of this homemade documentary, Jafar Panahi who's other films I've seen have been "The Mirror" (If you haven't seen The Mirror, this ruins the twist halfway through) and "Offside" in which at various moments he has scenes that are very outspoken against the Iranian governments portrayal of women and laws in general. They have some extremely stupid laws, in my opinion, and he exploits them to the full extent, especially in Offside which is about a female trying to sneak into a stadium to see a soccer game, women aren't allowed to see the men behaving as they do there so they aren't allowed in general.…
......The power of film.
This is Not a Film (2011)
Mojtaba Mirtahmasb & Jafar Panahi
I’m not well-versed enough in his work to say with any certainty whether this truly is a Panahi film (the title as denial not withstanding) but what I do recognize is that the true achievement is that the film exists at all. Operating in secret and flouting a legal order which prohibited him from directing a film for twenty years, the “film” finds Panahi documenting his home arrest as he awaits word on his appeal while personally demonstrating select scenes from an unproduced screenplay—which, not coincidentally, also deals with a person imprisoned in their home—were he actually able to make a film. Which this most certainly is not… nope……
While I admire and take seriously the whole affair of Jafar Panahi's trial and imprisonment, this film (?) is almost meaningless to me. I simply don't get it. Maybe the title is right and this is not a film, so maybe I should stop try judging it as one. But again, I simply don't get it.
Sentenced to six years of house arrest, and a twenty year ban from filmmaking, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Parnahi produces this film/document with the aid of a documentary-maker friend, and smuggles it out of Iran on a USB stick hidden in a cake.
Knowing that alone should be enough to sell anyone on this film. But ‘This is Not a Film’ is more than a symbolic act of dissent, as in the small moments captured as Parnahi stages the film that saw him banned, with him explaining the script and setting out the shots within his living room, his passion for filmmaking is displayed, and how much of a burden being unable to make films is shown to be.
Yes, this is not a film in the entertaining sense but the reasons behind it are just, as a banned and persecuted iranian film maker secretly films a day in his life mainly behind the doors of his apartment.
One of the highlights is when he is asked to watch his neighbours dog for a minute!