Watched Jun 21, 2012
Jafar Panahi's 75-minute "experiment," made at a time when he was banned for 20 years from making films, is one of the most impressive, revealing, quietly masterful films of its kind I have ever seen. But wait... I shouldn't call it a film, because realistically, it isn't. The title is right. The end credits refer to it as an "effort," so I shall do the same. For an effort, This Is Not a Film is absolutely fantastic. In depicting one unusual but quiet day in Panahi's life, and rarely leaving the apartment, the effort allows us to see Panahi's creative style and ability, and the audience is incredibly moved by the mesmerizing sight of the man staring his creative death in the face but still defiantly and compulsively urging to create. We see his ideas unfold in front of us; lonely and unadapted screenplays are brought almost to life by his words, though his confusion and hatred of his 20-year ban may see them left to collect dust.
There is no plot in This Is Not a Film, there is only real life. Moving life. Powerful life. Subtle life. There are no great big bombshells or shocking revelations. There is Panahi, a man already imprisoned before he went to prison; a man unfairly persecuted by an idiotic government. This is not a political effort; if it were it would be less effective. Politics are part of the real life Panahi finds himself stuck in, but he does not dwell on them. This is simply one episode in one man's life, a chance for him to see behind a camera, in front of a camera, and everything in between for perhaps the last time in a long while.