Dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s Taxi Tehran is impish and defiant, freewheeling and formalist, matter-of-fact and reflective, amusing and serious, deadpan and reflective. And, irrespective of how one views this – subversive mock documentary, underhanded city portrait, meta commentary on cinema itself – it’s a remarkable example of political dissent in world cinema. In 2010 Panahi was handed 6-year suspended prison sentence, 20-year ban on filmmaking and indefinite moratorium on foreign travel by the Iranian government. Yet, despite these directives, he made two films in secrecy, viz. the impudent video essay This is Not a Film and the allegorical “personal agitprop” Closed Curtain; and, with this, he made a triumphant return to the streets of his city in the garb of a taxi driver who, as it initially appears, has either taken this as a parallel vocation or is conducting a sly social experiment. Over the course of the day his green taxi turns into an eclectic, microcosmic melting pot – a conservative man who supports capital punishment and a liberal woman who irks him by calling for its abolition; a seller of pirated foreign films; an injured man who wants his wife to record his will on a mobile phone so that he can bequeath his possessions to her; a couple of superstitious old women; Panahi’s precocious niece Hana Saedi (she later received the Golden Bear Award at Berlin on her uncle’s behalf) who’s been given an assignment to make a short film, but bereft of themes that would make it “undistributable”, all of which, ironically, Panahi amply indulges in himself; and human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh on her way to visit a young woman imprisoned for attending a men’s volleyball match.
Director: Jafar Panahi
Genre: Docufiction/Experimental Film/Diary Film/Political Satire