Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Israeli strikes on Gaza as seen on social media

Read more

DEBATE

Africa's Newest Failed State: How to Stop Civil War and Famine in South Sudan? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Israel and the Palestinians: How to Break the Cycle of Violence?

Read more

DEBATE

Africa's Newest Failed State: How to Stop Civil War and Famine in South Sudan?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Somalia : Al Shebab attack on presidential palace

Read more

FOCUS

Sharia law to be enshrined in British legal system?

Read more

ENCORE!

How a comedy dud became one of France's biggest box office hits

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Kenya: Clashes at anti-government rally in Nairobi

Read more

WEB NEWS

ISIS leader challenged over expensive-looking wristwatch

Read more

  • Israeli airstrikes continue in Gaza as rockets intercepted over Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties to reach World Cup final

    Read more

  • Foiled French jihadist ‘targeted Louvre and Eiffel Tower’

    Read more

  • Obama in Texas to urge congressional action on child migrant crisis

    Read more

  • Iraq’s heritage 'in danger' from ISIS militants

    Read more

  • Froome crashes out of Tour de France

    Read more

  • South Sudan independence heroes ‘have lost their way’

    Read more

  • 100 years on, the Tour de France returns to the Western Front

    Read more

  • Dozens of blindfolded bodies found south of Baghdad

    Read more

  • Alps Murder wife had ex-husband who died on same day

    Read more

  • Both candidates say they won Indonesian presidential election

    Read more

  • Brazil players should never wear 'sacred uniform' again, press says

    Read more

  • Exiled Syrian opposition elects new president

    Read more

  • Ukraine imposes new conditions on peace talks with pro-Russia rebels

    Read more

  • Sarkozy's UMP party 'almost €80 million in debt'

    Read more

Culture

Banned Iranian director Jafar Panahi makes a movie, and a statement

©

Text by Jon FROSCH

Latest update : 2011-09-26

After being smuggled into Cannes last May, banned Iranian director Jafar Panahi's "This is Not a Film" hits French screens this week. A video diary of life under house arrest, the movie is both a nimble entertainment and an act of political defiance.

Most of the buzz at the Cannes Film Festival last May revolved around men behaving badly: Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier facetiously proclaiming himself a Nazi during a press conference and French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn ending up in a New York jail charged with sexual assault.

But amid all the sordid news, there was a quieter, though equally dramatic, story of artistic bravery and political risk-taking. Internationally acclaimed Iranian director Jafar Panahi, under house arrest in Tehran while appealing a six-year prison sentence and 20-year filmmaking ban for spreading “propaganda against the state”, had smuggled his latest work into Cannes on a flash drive buried in a cake.

A first-person chronicle of Panahi’s life within the confines of his apartment as he awaits news from his lawyer, the pointedly titled “This is Not a Film” was screened in the festival’s “Un Certain Regard” category. Now it’s hitting French screens on September 28, as the political drama surrounding the movie continues to unravel; the film’s co-director, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, was reportedly among six Iranian filmmakers arrested in Iran just over a week ago.

Panahi himself was initially arrested in July 2009 at a rally near the grave of slain protester Neda Agha-Soltan. He was released shortly after, but was arrested again in March 2010, and spent nearly three months in prison. He has been forbidden to leave his home since May 2010.

Given this dire context, “This is Not a Film” is remarkably light on its feet, a video-diary-style self-portrait infused with considerable humour and mischief. It is also – particularly in light of the latest developments – something both more urgent and inspiring: an artist’s gasp of creativity in the face of ongoing repression.

'We are not political combatants, we are film directors'

The film begins with a stationary camera capturing Panahi as he putters about, going through the daily motions: eating breakfast, touching base with his lawyer by phone, feeding a pet iguana, conversing with neighbours. The movie’s tone becomes gradually darker and more confessional when Panahi’s friend and colleague Mirtahmasb arrives for a visit and picks up the camera to record the filmmaker. Panahi allows hints of despair to filter through his otherwise congenial manner when he speaks of his past work – his best-known movie is the taut neo-realist drama “The Circle”, about a handful of women recently released from prison – and his present circumstances. He also grows frustrated when acting out a scene from a new screenplay (already rejected by the Iranian authorities) about a young woman locked in her home by her fundamentalist parents, finally throwing up his hands and wondering aloud: “If we could tell a film, why make a film?”

In the last stretch of “This is Not a Film”, Panahi accompanies the building’s garbage collector as he makes his rounds. Turning the camera away from himself and toward this young Iranian who chats breezily about his aspirations, the director’s gaze settles on fires burning just outside the residence gates. The unspoken tension between faith in the country’s potential and bone-deep resignation about its currently grim reality haunts the film until its final frame.

In prepared notes distributed to the press, Mirtahmasb seems to resist any recognition for political heroics. “We would prefer to be free men rather than imprisoned heroes,” he writes. “We are not political combatants, we are film directors.”

Those comments, along with the movie’s title, belie the fact that “This is Not a Film” is ultimately both quite cinematic – tense, stirring, visually nimble, and bitterly funny – and an inherently political act of defiance. As Mirtahmasb himself tells Panahi while filming him, “What matters is that this is documented. It matters that these cameras stay on.”
 

Date created : 2011-09-26

  • CINEMA

    Aleksander Sokurov's 'Faust' wins Golden Lion in Venice

    Read more

  • CINEMA

    Ridley Scott to direct new Blade Runner movie

    Read more

  • CINEMA

    Why the New York Film Festival appeals to movie buffs

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)