This Is Not a Film - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

This Is Not a Film Reviews

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December 11, 2016
Earning critical acclaim for documenting such vibrant subject matter, This Is Not a Film sounded like a brilliant documentary.

Having entered the experience of This Is Not a Film with no knowledge behind the history of Jafar Panahi, the documentary was clearly not one to ultimately offer me the same experience as the more learned audiences. Ultimately, this ended up being problematic for me because the documentary itself failed to provide me an adequate understanding of its subject matter.
This Is Not a Film is not necessarily a documentary, rather a feature length Vlog. The creators are deserving of immense praise for the sheer ambition they put into the film despite the risk they put upon themselves in the process as well as the fact that it depicts the mundane nature and fear of being an enemy of the state in Iran. It's incredibly realistic and relies on a simple technique to convey this to audiences, and the sheer courage behind the act given the political situation faced by Jafar Panahi cannot be denied. However, the film itself does not capture the exact scope of ambition that went into the actual production process. The film is not a documentary because it lacks sufficient documentation to convey to audiences the full context of the situation. The film is important not because of everything that happens in it but rather everything occurring around what we are seeing, and what we are seeing is just not that interesting as little happens. And for the film to make feature length, it has to stretch out very little material into a total of 76 minutes. Oddly enough they were some of the longest 76 minutes of my life because so little was happening in the film that I felt as if I was staring at a blank screen the entire time.
This Is Not a Film is clearly made in mind for the sake of devotees of Jafar Panahi. Audiences are assumed to already know the full extent of the filmmaker's contemporary position as an enemy of the state as a means of explaining the entire story context. Audiences who join me in being unaware of the situation will not find the feature to be an informative experience, but rather a blank Vlog in which some apparently well-recognized filmmaker talks to us about what his next film would have been. The film only provides audiences with a light glimpse of who he is with the majority of the insight coming from when we see segments of his earlier film The Mirror (1997) as it gives us an understanding of his style as a filmmaker. The film provided enough sparks for me to want to learn more about the director as well as see his earlier works, but I just don't feel it was ultimately informative enough for me to recommend. A film of this caliber is clearly not one for the mainstream crowd, but even those who appreciate a good documentary may not find satisfaction unless they are already well-informed enough. But ultimately, the extent of information audiences have to know goes into the territory of biographical, historical and contemporary political if they are to feel the full extent of This Is Not a Film. And in all honesty, that's just a little too much effort to go through for a feature length Vlog.
Perhaps the least exciting part about the film is the fact that after Jafar Panahi's fears get the best of him, This Is Not a Film changes course. The documentary shifts its focus away from him and onto the boy who collects litter in his apartment block, going through a fairly arbitrary conversation for an extensive period of time. This is obviously a desperate attempt to get the film to feature length when Jafar Panahi has become too scared to keep going with the project, and there is even less insight in these scenes than in the preceding ones. At least the moments with Jafar Panahi depict the body language of a man who is going against his own country by participating in the documentary and who speaks with artistic passion about films he wishes to make. The boy who collects litter from the apartment block is a generic stock character who doesn't really seem to have anything interesting to say or any interesting personal situation to be saying it in. This entire conversations seems relatively pointless, and given that it happens in one long shot that goes on forever without going out into the world that the filmmakers cannot risk exposing themselves to, it just all adds up to being pointless. The documentation of Jafar Panahi is mildly interesting at best, and once he exits the feature there really becomes no more point in watching the film.
Perhaps the best thing about This Is Not a Film is the fact that it has the power to encourage people. All kinds of documentaries are produced every year out of the desire to tell a story which needs to get to audiences, and This Is Not a Film depicts a new method of doing that. The ultimate content of the film does not live up to the ambition of its concept, but its ultimate recognition does prove that there is an audience out there for films that want to spell out the truth in the manner that Jafar Panahi does. Since the film was almost nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, we can hope that more dissident voices will refute their imposed silence and rise in our current participatory culture. Only time will tell, but until the day we have a more entertaining example of the medium being used in this manner it seems that This Is Not a Film will have to be the meandering pinnacle of the style.

This Is Not a Film is a very courageous production, but the story behind why it was produced is ultimately far more satisfying than the film itself which turns out to be an overly slow and uninformative video diary.
Super Reviewer
½ December 6, 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
½ November 11, 2016
The epitome of a non-violent protest, "This is Not a Film" is pure statement not necessarily of defiance, but of the artist's compelling, obsessive need to create in the face of everything.
May 23, 2016
As engrossing, suspenseful, and poignant as 75 minutes in a guy's apartment can possibly be.
½ February 6, 2016
this is not a GOOD film.
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.
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 December 18, 2014
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.
½ October 17, 2014
This might not be a film, but it is an indictment against oppression, a powerful argument for freedom of speech, and a testament to human ingenuity.
October 16, 2014
A revealing personal account of the shame of the fascistic Iranian state imposed on filmmaking and freedom of expression, as one man under house arrest documents his day-to-day life.
October 3, 2014
Excellent protest film, although certainly an acquired taste given its premise of watching our film maker as he waits to find out if he'll lose his profession and go to prison because of it. Interesting but it's not a film.
August 9, 2014
Thought-provoking and suitably infuriating if one is an artist.
½ July 31, 2014
In a bit of a terrible mixup. Flixter said I should watch "This Is Not A Film", so I got a hold of it. Apparently I watched the wrong one! LOL. The one I was supposed to watch came out a little later than this same-titled documentary. ANYWAYS, this doc is about an Iranian film maker who is under house arrest in Iran about his film topics. His punishmet, which he is waiting on appeals for, is no filmmaking for 30 years. One day, he has a camera, and he shoots a day in the life of himself. Personal footage. He does'nt know what the footage will be used for, if anything. Phone calls, looking out the window, caring for his pet lizard, talking about unrealized screenplays, etc. This was slow to begin with, but by the 2nd half, I began to get charmed by the whole thing. It certainly is unusual. Not for everyone, but has a lot of treasures to uncover.
July 10, 2014
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
February 28, 2014
The story of a passionate dreamer in a frenzied war zone. The ending of this movie was especially powerful.
February 26, 2014
Surprisingly watchable, though some of the early, deliberately mundane scenes aren't exactly scintillating. I absolutely loved the last act though, especially the adventure down the elevator into the street. It really feels like a Panahi film by that point. I suspect most of this was more scripted than it seems, and I think that's wonderful.
February 13, 2014
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.
½ January 7, 2014
This is Not a Film no es una película convencional en ningún sentido, y no se si la consideraría una si no fuera por el fuerte mensaje que trasmite. Jafar Panahi es un director iraní, que fue condenado a 20 años de prohibición para realizar películas y salir de su país. A raíz de esto, decide empezar a filmar un día en su vida donde no hay mayores ocurrencias. En una parte trata de dramatizar lo que hubiera sido escenas de su próxima película, que no podrá realizar, y vemos un momento de tristeza al darse cuenta de lo grave de su sentencia. Lo maravilloso de esta filmación es la rebeldía de sus acciones y que a pesar de sus circunstancias, no se rinde. Esta no es una película, pero conlleva una responsabilidad tremenda, pero a pesar de eso no logra trasmitir esa urgencia, llega a ser monótona y pierde todo su significado .
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