Renowned Iranian director Jafar Panahi (The Circle, and one of my all-time favorite, Offside) received a six-year prison sentence and a twenty-year ban from making movies due to his open support of the opposition party in Iran’s 2009 elections. In this surprising documentary, which was secretly shot on an iPhone and a digital camera by Panahi’s close friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and smuggled into France in a cake for a last-minute submission to Cannes, Panahi shares his story ideas for a new film, as well as his day-to-day life, and waits languidly for a decision on his appeal.
This is not a film is almost entirely confined to the director’s Tehran apartment, where he chats with Mirtahmasb about his films, speaks to his family and lawyer on the phone, looks after a pet iguana, marks off areas of his apartment to describe scenes from a film proposal (about a young woman locked in her room by her religious parents), and can’t resist picking up a camera to interview his building’s janitor. As the Iranian New Year’s fireworks go off outside his window, Panahi reflects on the meaning of filmmaking, his life’s work.
A moving and philosophical reflection on the nature of making art, This is not a film is an urgent and personal defense of the artist.
Both Panahi and co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb are currently banned from filmmaking and from leaving the country. Both men are accused of fomenting anti-government propaganda through their movies. Panahi’s appeal was denied in October. According to Iranian law he could be arrested and sent back to jail at any time.
Opens on February 29 at Film Forum in New York City.