Watched Aug 11, 2012
Ben James’s review:
A fantastic documentary on the paranoia and restraint of the Iranian Government, This is not a Film is by far one of the most insightful documentaries to provide a glimpse into a country so hotly observed by the Western world. Of course, as this is not a film, merely a snap shot of Panahi's life, a day in the life of a dissident, it leads me to question is this a political film or rather one which cannot exist outside the context from which it was conceived. The truth I would argue is somewhere in between and the political message which not only I, but many others have interpreted - both inside and outside the Islamic world - is that Panahi uses his experiences to show to the world what is taking place in Iran, and certainly not to flatter its leaders.
Now, I'm wary of using the following term, because it carries a lot of baggage, but I feel that in this case This is not a film warrants this description: Zeitgeist. The film doesn't overstate the restrictive nature of the Iranian government, it doesn't delve too far into Panahi's feelings of anger, fear or uncertainty, it even doesn't reveal all that much about Mirtahmasb's intentions (is he making this film for the plight of his fellow filmmakers, or just to create a sensationalist film which will be coveted by Westerners as a demonstration of Iranian oppression?). And yet despite the fact this film merely skims the surface of the situation in Iran for filmmakers and other free thinking groups/individuals in Iran, it tells us more than any article or news video ever will. This is oppression from the perspective of the oppressed rather than from the nosy journalists or electioneering politicians. And this is the film's greatest success, it's ability to tell so much, by telling so little.