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This Is Not A Film

This Is Not A Film

By Patrick Samuel • December 30th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
THIS IS NOT A FILM (DOCUMENTARY)
Palisades Tartan

Release date: March 11th, 2013
Certificate / Rating: U
Running time: 75 minutes

Country of origin: Iran
Original language: Persian with English subtitles

Directors: Motjaba Mirtahmasb, Jafar Panahi

This Is Not A Film

To say that we take our illusions of freedom for granted is to understate it. Here in the west we are free to vote and to voice our political opinions to anyone that cares to listen, we are free to create art that expresses how deeply we hold these sentiments and we are free to put those thoughts and feelings into film for all to see and learn.

In places like Iran however, that freedom is somewhat harder to come by. Since the 2009 Iranian presidential election which saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announcing a majority win which sparked an unprecedented series of protests in Tehran, those who supported the Green Wave have paid the price with their freedom.

Among the many are filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof, who was sentenced to six years imprisonment, and Jafar Panahi. This film, which is not a film, documents a day in the life of Panahi spent under house arrest while waiting for news on his appeal against a six year prison sentence and a twenty year ban on filmmaking.

Filmed with a digital camera and an iPhone, what we’re presented with is an experiment that asks “What is cinema?” and “When is it useful?”

Forbidden from leaving the country or speaking to the media, for fear that he might spread propaganda, what we see Panahi doing is going about his day in the only way a man in his situation can. He’s bored, anxious and worried that the verdict will result in the death of his creativity and in a desperate bid to do one last thing before that happens, he begins to document.

This Is Not A Film

We see Panahi turning on the news only to learn the president has now banned fireworks and bonfires that celebrate the Chaharshanbe Suri festival. This gives us another glimpse of what life in Iran is like under Ahmadinejad’s regime and the power he tries to wield on a people who don’t want him there.

As he puts his friends on speakerphone, so we can hear the conversations both ways, we realise he is still very much the director in this piece although Mirtahmasb might not always see it that way! When he arrives, they begin discussing film and Panahi uses the opportunity to tell us about his previous project, a film that never got made because of the Iranian Film Commission.

With his living room as the set marked with tape outlines on the floor, he brings his failed film to life. “Why would you make a film if you could just talk through it?” he poignantly asks.

In Iran’s attempt to stamp on Panahi’s creative efforts as an influential filmmaker with a global standing, it actually sparked something else. It gave him a different This Is Not A Filmperspective from which we can see some of the effects of this political dictatorship in action.

It’s had a drastic effect on some of the country’s other prominent filmmakers too; Abbas Kiarostami has now left to continue making films outside of Iran and Mohsen Makhmalbaf has quit filmmaking to become the official spokesman for Mir-Hossein Moussavi, a political reformist.

Panahi’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment has sparked another wave of protests with the international film community rallying to support his immediate release. While Ahmadinejad continues his reign who knows when this will happen, but with the release of This Is Not A Film, which was smuggled out of the country in a birthday cake, I am sure the issue of Iran’s dictator will once again rise to surface and spark more action.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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