Taxi Tehran


Director: Jafar Panahi
Year: 2015
Rating: 7.5
Country: Iran

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 authorities.

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.