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THIS IS NOT A FILM (directors: Jafar Panahi/Mojtaba Mirtahmasb; screenwriter: Jafar Panahi; cinematographer: Jafar Panahi; editor: Jafar Panahi; cast: Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb; Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jafar Panahi; Palisades/Tartan Films; 2011-Iran-in Persian with English subtitles)
“Powerfully shows how freedom in the arts is a necessity for any country to ensure its citizens don’t live a lie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jafar Panahi (“Offside”/”The Circle”/”Crimson Gold”) secretly films himself on an iPhone in his Tehran luxury apartment while under house arrest and the film is smuggled into France as a submission to the Cannes Film Festival. It’s filmed over a 24-hour period, during the New Year’s Wednesday Firework celebration. It shows the anxious but always dignified director conferring by phone with his lawyer to see how his appeal is going, as he was charged with conspiring against the Islamic Republic and received a sentence of six years in jail, a twenty-year ban on making films and he won’t be able to leave the country. For a great part of the film Jafar feeds his pet iguana, acts out scenes from the censored script, shows clips from his previous films, dismisses a fellow tenant who wants to dump her irritable dog on him to mind while she goes outside to celebrate, offers a set-piece with a graduate student subbing for the building super and getting into a long conversation with Panahi as he takes out his trash and the director talking shop in his apartment with documentarian filmmaker Mojtaba Mirtahmasb.

Too unimaginative to be endearing, but as a curio film about an artist being pressured by the government to conform or go to prison it powerfully shows how freedom in the arts is a necessity for any country to ensure its citizens don’t live a lie.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”