This Is Not A Review

31 03 2012
This Is Not A Film, Jafar Panahi

'This Is Not A Film'

Necessity is the mother of invention: nowhere, in the world of cinema, has this been demonstrated more strikingly and more often than in Iran. Hemmed in by political censorship on one side and budgetary constraints on the other, Iranian film-makers (or at least those not working in purely commercial cinema) have long escaped into myth, allegory and street-level neorealism in their work.

One such film-maker is Jafar Panahi whose films have often used small-scale stories set on the fringes of society to examine wider social issues in microcosm. The Circle (2000) and Offside (2006), for example, both dealt with the position of women in Iranian society, the first through a series of stories about newborn girls and female ex-prisoners, the second by following a group of teenage girls trying to sneak into a men-only football game. Similarly, The White Balloon (1995) was a deceptively simple children’s film that managed to contain a whole world in one small girl’s quest to buy a goldfish from her local market.

Panahi’s room for manoeuvre has, sadly, been limited still further over the past 3 years. Arrested for his links with the ‘Green’ protest movement in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the director spent time in Tehran’s notorious Evin jail before being released and put under house arrest. In an additional cruel twist, the authorities have banned him both from leaving the country and from making films for the next 20 years.

This Is Not A Film, made under these conditions and smuggled out of Iran hidden inside a cake, is Panahi’s response to this enforced inactivity. As such it’s both a brave, defiant film and potentially a very dangerous one.

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