Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: This Is Not a Film

Copyright: Kanibal Films Distribution
Art is liberty, or at least it should be. In the case of Jafar Panahi, an Iranian film director, art became a liability after he received a six-year prison sentence, along the additional twenty-year ban on film-making.

This movie opens with him in his Teheran apartment, were Panahi is under house arrest. While he awaits the outcome of his legal battle against the sentence he received on the charges of creating propaganda against the Iranian government, he decides to “make” his last planned movie, or at least try’s to present its plot and scenes through narration and explanations. His friend and long time associate Mirtahmasb comes over and start to film him making improvised floor plans of houses and other locations, all in his living room. In the same time, outside, celebration of the Persian new year starts to sound more and more like gunshots from possible street clashes.

This documentary beautifully and without much fuss depicts the artistic spirit and its determination not to be suffocated. When Panahi is left with nothing more than some pillow and duct tape, he uses those thing that to tell his story about a fictional girl in a small Iranian town, a movie he wasn’t able to make. His passion is clear, even though now, after so many years of filmmaking combined with judicial persecution by government forces of the Islamic republic, it isn’t a burning desire, but a calm, indestructible mountain, hidden in a regular looking, middle-aged family man.

This Is Not a Film doesn’t cover politics in any obvious way and is most definitely not a platform from were Panahi can speak about the injustice that bestowed him. During the movie, he isn’t angry or distraught, but mostly melancholic more than anything else. Also, he isn’t blinded by his fate and consequence of any jail time. While he and Mirtahmasb talk and film each other, Panahi still worries about his wife and children who are on a family visit, and talks to them on a regular basis, just like any other father and husband.

This documentary had to be smuggled out of the country for the world to get the opportunity to see it. Teheran probably felt like it would be depicted as a repressive regime, but instead of that we got the see what a banishment from art feels like, at the same time, that it’s not really possible to destroy a person’s need to do exactly that.