This is Not a Film

Director: Jafir Panahi
Year: 2011
Rating: 6.0
Country: Iram

This is Not a Film from Iranian director Jafir Panahi isn't a film and yet it is. It depends on your definition of a film I guess. This is all due to the unusual circumstances Panahi found himself in. And still is. Along with Abbas Kiarostami, he is probably Iran's best known director outside of Iran. Inside Iran it is hard to say since most of his films have been banned though I think people have been able to see them in irregular ways because every one seemed to recognize him in his film Tehran Taxi.

In 2010 he was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films for twenty years. And confined to his apartment. With his pet iguana who seems to think it is a cat. His case has been appealed where he hopes that the sentence will be reduced and the ban as well. So what does he do as he awaits his appeal - well what else - he makes this film that is not a film. He thinks he has found a technical loophole. Questionable.

He invites a friend over - documentary filmmaker Mojtaba Mirtahmasb - and has him shoot the film that is Not a Film. All within Panahi's apartment with Iggy the Iguana crawling all over. It all takes place in a day - though actually the shoot took a bit longer - and Panahi in his always charming manner talks about a script that he wrote and was turned down by the government censors and sets it up in his living room - on a beautiful Persian carpet I would sell my first born to have - this is where her bedroom would be, this is the alleyway - and somehow pulls us into the story but never finishes it. He also shows us a clip of two of his early films The Mirror and Crimson Gold and talks about using non-professional actors which is what he almost always does. He is interrupted constantly by phone calls from friends and his lawyer and people knocking at the door - all filmed - and edited and looks like a film but isn't.

The film was smuggled out of Iran on a thumb drive inside a cake and was entered into Cannes. This guy has balls. And as far as I can figure out his case has still not been settled and he has made a few more films - one being the terrific Tehran Taxi in which he was clearly outside his apartment. So I am not really sure what is going on but I hope he is able to keep making these small amusing on the run touching films because they humanize a people under fire right now if not the regime. It is good to remember these are real people and not estimated casualty figures.