This Is Not a Film Reviews
I was excited when I first heard about this "film," and I love the basic idea for the project. Jafar Panahi, the Iranian filmmaker who has been put under house arrest and prohibited from making films, records the various goings-on in his Teheran apartment using his iPhone. It sounded to me like a great testament to human creativity.
You can steal a filmmaker's camera and lock him up, but he will find a way to create! I also love how 21st-century technology undercuts fascist governments at every turn.
I couldn't wait to see what Panahi would have to say from the confines of his house arrest. What a shock to learn that he has almost nothing to say. If you're going to work so hard to create clandestine footage and smuggle it out of Iran, at least have something to say!
All we see is Panahi puttering about the house, feeding his pet iguana, and answering the phone! We also watch him help the building's superintendent take out the trash. All the while we hear the sound of fireworks going off in the background, as it's some kind of holiday in the country. Initially it sounded like gunfire. But no, just fireworks.
After an hour, it's over. This is hardly a testament to human creativity. It's an attempt to milk cash out of the cinephiles around the world who have championed Panahi's cause. This will probably top my Worst of 2012 List.
In all honesty, I don't think 'This is Not a Film' was really meant to be a title in a conventional sense. Rather, it is meant to possibly to work around the Iranian authorities' sentencing Panahi to six years of prison and 20 years without directing, writing a film or giving interviews.(His lawyer thinks there is a chance he could have the prohibitions thrown out and his sentence reduced but he is still going to jail.) All of which he bares up under with humor and fatalism.
So, that only leaves him to talk about his old films in pointing out how little control he has had over his amateur casts in the past. To accentuate this, his pet iguana(which is bigger than most cars, by the way) takes center stage at times. So, he stages scenes from what would have been his latest film about a young woman who wants to attend university in Tehran over her traditional parents' wishes.
This all comes about when Mojtaba Mirtahmasb conceives of a behind the scenes series on banned directors.(Another way of looking at it, is as they put it, when hairdressers get bored, they do each others' hair.) Even though Panahi does not want to appeal to other Iranian directions which might get them in trouble also, Mirtahmasb also is currently in hot water, too. And finally, the real reason for this being made, is as Panahi puts it, to petition for international pressure, or in other words, us.
Shot entirely inside his apartment using only one professional camera (and Panahi's camera phone), the film chronicles his house imprisonment and how boredom and frustration slowly plague his every waking day. For filmmakers and even aspiring ones like me, it's a truly depressing thing to behold because it shows someone like Panahi, a director at the peak of expressive strengths, suddenly pulled down to a creative standstill.
With one of his restrictions being to carry a video camera and record things with it, Panahi's body is literally trapped and his mind figuratively shackled. For a filmmaker, nothing is more painful than that yet Jafar Panahi, with a demeanor that is surprisingly exuberant and pure even amid his situation, has thought of something: If it's illegal for him to tell a story through film, then maybe he can tell a story by way of spoken words, a hanging screenplay, and some masking tape.
Acting and moving as if always out of breath, Panahi, in relative detail and great imagination, was able to make us and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (the man holding the camera) visualize the set (by putting tapes on the floor to serve as the various settings' walls and dimensions), the preferred shots (by description) and the emotional context of each and every scene that comprise the aforementioned screenplay that he is supposed to direct into a feature film.
In these moments, one can really feel and see how Panahi suddenly transforms from a silently frustrated political prisoner into a spirited man of both grace and energy. To see him very eager to tell a story, even in the most limiting of conditions, is truly encouraging yet at the same time also saddening. Why must a country like Iran reach a point where its filmmakers, who all got something to say that's worth listening to, are prevented to do what they do best? And does a video camera impose the same kind of risk to Iranian authorities in much the same way a high-powered gun does? Or is it just the fact that their government is afraid of it the same way an authoritarian state is wary of rightful revolutionaries?
"This Is Not a Film", although a piece of work that's solely focused on Panahi's predicament, is also a subtly incising political commentary about the crumbling state of Iranian cinema. With a title that seems to inform both the audience and authorities in advance, as if in cautious defense, that 'this is not a film', ironically, it's still a thoroughly radical work. Smuggled out of Iran inside a cake so that it may reach a wider audience, "This Is Not a Film", both in content and context, is a work not just of political defiance but also of cinematic resilience.
Here in the Western world, our access to information, democratic governments, and human rights are taken for granted. Panahi and Mirtahmasb are putting their lives on the line to tell the stories they feel they must tell, in the hope that, one day, their nation will be able to have the same sort of pro-democratic freedom as the rest of us. Gripping entertainment. Little by little "This Is Not a Film" leads to a final scene of overwhelming power. Anyone interested in cinema and/or Iran owes it to themselves to become familiar with this "not" film.
this movie needs to be seen by everyone who considers themselves a film maker
This film was smuggled out of Iran in a flash drive hidden inside a birthday cake with a special screening held at the Cannes Film Festival. To a certain extent, it works as a protest film against censorship and a system that has landed its director, Jafar Panahi, six years in prison, a 20-year ban from filmmaking and labeled "enemy of the state".
While it may work as a protest film, at 75 minutes, it still drags and can barely be considered a documentary. It is not the provocative piece of art one would hope that makes a forceful, pointed statement and a serious indictment of the establishment to which it is specifically aimed at.