Director: Jafar Panahi
In 2010 Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was
arrested for the content of his films, sentenced to six years and banned
from making another movie for 20-years. He had been arrested a few times
previously but jailed for only short periods of time. So what did he do while
he was appealing his sentence - make films of course. He made them very much
undercover but when they were completed they were smuggled out of Iran -
one on a thumb drive inside a cake - and showed up at film festivals where
they always won prizes. His sentence is still being appealed I believe and
for a long period he was under house arrest but can now go about Tehran but
not leave the country. His films of course are never shown in Iran but he
is quite a popular director due to pirated dvds. I have seen three of his
films thus far - White Balloon, Offside and this one. To send someone to
prison for these films seems so absurd to an outsider as they are gentle,
amusing humane films that very slyly and subtly poke a bit of fun at the
Taxi was one of the films he made after being banned rom making films - along
with This is Not a Film (2011), Closed Curtain (2013) and Three Faces (2018).
Taxi is an absolutely charming film with a budget that probably covered the
gas used. Panahi drives a taxi cab around Tehran picking up various passengers
and secretly recording on camera their conversations. Or so it seems as it
spills out so naturally but in fact they are actors or friends of his - though
none were credited to protect their identities.
One of the passengers gets in an argument about executing thieves with another
female passenger (you are allowed and expected to pick up other passengers),
one fellow is a seller of pirated DVDs and recognized Panahi immediately
and tries to partner with him to sell his product; then there are the two
elderly ladies who have to get to a park by noon to release two goldfish
or they will die - the women that is. But then the film slips into the sort
of politics that keeps getting him in trouble. He picks up a female friend
who is a Human Rights advocate and they share the fact that both have been
jailed and went on hunger strikes. She is on her way to visit a female prisoner
who was jailed for sneaking in to see a volleyball game - ala Offsides.
But the best segment is when he picks up his very adorable young 10-year
old or so niece who gives him hell for being late and then launches into
a narrative about having to make a short film for school and the don'ts that
the teacher tells her will make the film unbroadcastable - just about everything.
A few of Panahi's films feature children and he gets amazing performances
out of them. This is literally filmmaking on the run and the man has incredible
guts to be doing it.