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This Is Not a Film

By MATTHEW SINGER
This Is Not a Film opens with Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi alone at his breakfast table, spreading jam on flatbread and talking to a friend over speakerphone. “I’m stuck in a problem,” he says. “Stuck” is quite the appropriate word, but the statement hardly conveys the gravity of his situation. He is sequestered in Tehran, under house arrest after being convicted of committing “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” He faces a six-year prison sentence and a two-decade ban on leaving the country, giving interviews or making movies. He is awaiting word on his appeal to the state Supreme Court, a body not known for its generous clemency. To fill the time, Panahi calls over his buddy, the documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, to film him waiting. Confined to his apartment, there is little for Panahi to do. He feeds his daughter’s pet iguana. He orders takeout. He watches the news. What he is not doing—because, of course, it would violate the terms of his conviction—is making a movie. Under the circumstances, the mundanity of This Is Not a Film becomes a daring provocation. It is not a film, because it is something more: a work of passive-resistant protest. Grading such a project seems trivial, especially considering how it got to us, smuggled out of Iran on a flash drive hidden in a birthday cake. The fact we may see it at all is a triumph.
 

Special Note

 Hollywood Theatre.
 
  • Genres: Documentary
  • Running Time: 75 minutes
  • Release Date: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
  • Country: Iran, Islamic Republic of
  • Language: Persian
  • Critic's Score: A
  • Directed by: Jafar Panahi [Director], Mojtaba Mirtahmasb [Director], Jafar Panahi [Screenwriter], Jafar Panahi [Producer], Jafar Panahi [Film Editor]
  • Watch the trailer
 

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