This Is Not a Film

Critics Consensus

Through simple means and filming, This is Not a Film presents a vital political statement and a snapshot of life in Iran as enemy of the state.



Total Count: 100


Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,111
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Movie Info

This clandestine documentary, shot partially on an iPhone and smuggled into France in a cake for a last-minute submission to Cannes, depicts the day-to-day life of acclaimed director Jafar Panahi (Offside, The Circle) during his house arrest in his Tehran apartment. While appealing his sentence - six years in prison and a 20 year ban from filmmaking - Panahi is seen talking to his family and lawyer on the phone, discussing his plight with Mirtahmasb and reflecting on the meaning of the art of filmmaking. -- (C) Palisades Tartan


Jafar Panahi
as Jafar Panahi
Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
as Mojtaba Mirtahmasb

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Audience Reviews for This Is Not a Film

  • Dec 04, 2016
    Under house arrest, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi creates a powerful humanist manifesto against censorship and lack of freedom of speech in his country. Full review on filmotrope. com
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 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.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 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.
    Ivan D Super Reviewer
  • Mar 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.
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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