While Jafar Panahi’s works have usually always been a reflection of his defiance, it surely reached gargantuan proportions with This is Not a Film. As a way to tamper his political outspokenness, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison, and a banned for 20 years from writing and directing movies, giving interviews and travelling internationally; therefore, in an act of fearless dissent, he illegally made this non-film with the help of Mojtaba Mirtahmasb – shot entirely inside his lovely Tehran apartment where he was under house arrest pending further appeals, and using a mix of a hand-held movie camera and an iPhone – and had this smuggled out of the country in a flash drive for a surprise screening at the Cannes. Yet interestingly, this pocket-sized provocation – right from its ironic title to its seemingly faux tone – was also surprisingly cheeky and rarely took itself too seriously despite the shadows of potential doom. Less a film and more a spontaneous video essay, it captured a day in his life stuck in his house, as he speaks to his lawyer, reminisces about his earlier works, discusses his latest screenplay which is banned by the government censors, recreates a sequence from his forbidden script, plays with his pet iguana, engages in satirical conversations with Mirtahmasb, briefly enjoys the Fireworks Wednesday celebrations, and builds a fleeting connect with the guy who collects their wastes while pursuing a university career in the arts. The wry conversations and musings on the absurd punishment and its potential loopholes, masking the seriousness and fatalism underneath, made this an exemplary work of political bravery – that too, without really comprising of any overtly political discourse or protestations within it.
Director: Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
Genre: Documentary/Diary Film/Essay Film