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
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.
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 perspective 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.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .