This Is Not a Film - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

This Is Not a Film Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ February 17, 2012
The mere premise of "This is Not a Film" is extraordinary. Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years of a suspended jail sentence and banned from making any films for twenty years. In a pure form of protest Panahi had a cameraman film his life, while he was stuck in his home trying to fight this extreme form of censorship, and still having a pure nationalistic love for his country. Without that information watching the film seems a bit dull. Panahi eats breakfast, talks to his attorney, and watches some of his films, while feeding his iguana. In the midst of these mundane activities, Panahi almost loses his cameraman at a checkpoint, Iran's fires burn in the streets, and his family has left. It's tense throughout, scary even, and though he is not allowed to film anything, he takes up a camera, a clear violation of the terms of his suspended sentence and ban. Though nothing really happens in this film, everything happens in this film. To even get it to Cannes, Panahi put the film on a flash drive, baked in a cake, and sent it through customs. If there's any true form of protest to the film, it's that, which makes Panahi's actions that much more impressive and inspiring. This is a film to watch in order to understand the complexities of Iran's forms of censorships, and to understand the real life turmoil of Panahi.
Super Reviewer
January 5, 2012
This Is Not a Film, is a scream of help.
Super Reviewer
March 9, 2012
"This is Not a Film" follows a filmmaker (Jafar Panahi) through his house after he has been released from prison, not being able to write, direct, or produce a film while he is on house arrest. It is extremely interesting and enlightening to see a man with such loss, still being able to enjoy whatever is left of his life. Reflecting back on his past films while trying to explain a film idea that he will never get the chance to make, I was 100% devoted to the realism of this "film." It captivated me in many ways and showed everything that needed to be shown from a story like this. This is partial documentary and partial found-footage film, and it works brilliantly in both aspects. Would I watch it again? No, but I admire the hell out of it!
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
March 7, 2012
It certainly is not a film; it's a rip-off. Charging $13 for "This Is Not a Film," a one-hour short almost devoid of content, is highway robbery. This is one of the few times in my life when I felt the theater owed me a refund. I really resented being charged $13 for this.

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.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2012
This is as a fascinating bit of minimalism as there has been in quite a long time, not only for its insights into the state of censorship in Iran(from what I can infer, Jafar Panahi's arrest sounds like something out of "Hawaii 5-0,") but for its symbolism in capturing a day in the life of Jafar Panahi, trapped inside waiting for loved ones to return on New Year's Day with fireworks going off just outside. So it may come as no surprise that the only identifiable movie on his DVD rack is "Buried" starring Ryan Reynolds.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ June 13, 2013
True, it isn't a film...and yet it is. Jafar Panahi, under house arrest, shoots scenes with a cameraman that are seemingly about the mundane life of being locked up in an apartment but turn into something that you can't quite look away from. From a USB key in a cake to you.
Super Reviewer
½ September 18, 2012
What do you think will happen when you put a prolific filmmaker under house arrest? "This Is Not a Film", a sad portrait of how freedom of expression can sometimes be looked upon as nothing short of a political transgression, answers that question with both simplicity and ingenuity courtesy of director Jafar Panahi, whose socially realistic films have brought him a tad too close to the fire.

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.
November 4, 2015
Mostly dull, but has a fascinating undercurrent of artistic rebellion. This guy just can't seem to help himself, his compulsion to film "something" even to a point of possible self incrimination against ridiculous censorship is in a way a silent scream of protest. It sort of reminds me of Mozart's plea in Amadeus to Joseph to let him just write his play, and for the emperor to take out the notes he doesn't like, he just needs to work.
½ March 11, 2013
A late addition to the Cannes 2011 programme after being smuggled into France inside a cake, Iranian director Jafar Panahi's "This is Not a Film" (2011) is by no means your average political documentary. The 75-minute piece, shot partially on an iPhone, captures the day-to-day life of Panahi during a state-imposed house arrest in his Tehran apartment as he appeals a six year prison sentence and 20 year filmmaking ban for his opposition to the 2011 Iranian elections.

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.
November 21, 2012
Thank you William D. for your courage to 'dissent' from most other reviews. Without dismissing anyone, one has to admit that very often people pretend to like or 'appreciate' this so-called art, so that they are seen as sofisticated. It must be the fact that I've seen too many intelectual snobs around frequenting indie theatres and museums (and let's not forget opera...). Not to dismiss people who *genuinely* like these things, but they are usually not bragging around about it. Short of uploading iPhone videos to YouTube (like the ones who started the Arab Spring), this kind of 'art' is unlikely to change anything...
August 17, 2015
A sad and enraging, but intriguing and interesting documentary that takes the audience through a day in the life of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was put under house arrest by the Iranian government.
½ May 15, 2015
very sad state of affairs for this fillmmaker
Super Reviewer
½ February 17, 2012
The mere premise of "This is Not a Film" is extraordinary. Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years of a suspended jail sentence and banned from making any films for twenty years. In a pure form of protest Panahi had a cameraman film his life, while he was stuck in his home trying to fight this extreme form of censorship, and still having a pure nationalistic love for his country. Without that information watching the film seems a bit dull. Panahi eats breakfast, talks to his attorney, and watches some of his films, while feeding his iguana. In the midst of these mundane activities, Panahi almost loses his cameraman at a checkpoint, Iran's fires burn in the streets, and his family has left. It's tense throughout, scary even, and though he is not allowed to film anything, he takes up a camera, a clear violation of the terms of his suspended sentence and ban. Though nothing really happens in this film, everything happens in this film. To even get it to Cannes, Panahi put the film on a flash drive, baked in a cake, and sent it through customs. If there's any true form of protest to the film, it's that, which makes Panahi's actions that much more impressive and inspiring. This is a film to watch in order to understand the complexities of Iran's forms of censorships, and to understand the real life turmoil of Panahi.
August 9, 2014
Thought-provoking and suitably infuriating if one is an artist.
April 14, 2013
A masterwork meta-film about young girl whose dreams of university caused her to be locked in her room, struggling to communicate through closed doors, acted out by a director whose passion for expression caused him to be locked under house arrest , struggling to communicate through the closed door of a repressive regime. While the low rating reviewers are quick to point out that the obvious themes of repression, censorship, expression, revolution, etc. could have been more effectively communicated in other mediums, I would argue that Panahi was striving for something different--something more esoteric--with this film. Does it not occur to those reviewers that this "documentary" is in-fact a meta-film and may not actually be a documentary at all? Had those other reviewers never considered that perhaps Panahi *is* Maryam (the girl from his screenplay), and that the recitation of his screenplay did not end when he stripped the tape off the rug? This was my first Panahi film, but he made an instant fan out of me.
½ April 14, 2014
"If we could tell a film, then why make a film?" - Jafer Panahi

this movie needs to be seen by everyone who considers themselves a film maker
November 25, 2012
Its been nearly two years since I first saw this and my appreciation towards it has only improved. Its a movie I think any and all film makers need to watch.
December 10, 2013
It was powerful, effectively conveyed the frustration of an artist with injustice!
October 5, 2013
The plight of Iranian filmmakers has been well documented. Iranian directors who have successfully made their mark worldwide include, among others, Abbas Kiarostami and Asghar Farhadi whose "A Separation" was one of 2011's best films.

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.
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