When Are Films Political? This is Not a Film

Awards
by Sydney Levine
January 4, 2013 9:30 AM
1 Comment
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This is Not a Film

Jafar Panahi in This is Not a Film

"A subtle and haunting work of art ... A masterpiece in a form that
does not yet exist.” 
– A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“An extraordinary film. This Is Not a Film ends with a whimper that is a bang.”
– David Edelstein, New York Magazine

EW's Grade: A
"Ignore the title This is Not a Film — this is a great film, and a triumph of creativity and courage over repression." 
- Lisa Schwarzbaum , Entertainment Weekly

Released by Palisades Tartan, this “breathtakingly cinematic” (Karina Longworth, Village Voice) film already opened in more than 50 markets and continues to play in select venues throughout the United States. With a rare 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes and rave reviews by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker and Village Voice, to name a few, This is Not a Film has already been included on several annual Top 10 lists (Sight & Sound; The Guardian; Washington Post).

Shot partially on an iPhone and smuggled into France (in a Flash-Drive hidden inside a cake) for a last-minute submission to Cannes, This is Not a Film depicts a day in the life of acclaimed Iranian director Jafar Panahi (Offside, The Mirror, The Circle).

While appealing his sentence – six years in prison and a 20-year ban from filmmaking – fellow director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (Lady of the Roses) visits Mr. Panahi at his Tehran apartment and films him talking to his family and lawyer on the phone, reflecting on the art of filmmaking, meeting some of his neighbors and even interacting with an inquisitive iguana. After several years of conflict with the Iranian government over the content of his films (including several short-term arrests), Panahi was arrested on March 1, 2010 and taken to Evin Prison, an Iranian penitentiary noted for its political prisoners' wing. He was released three months later on bail, and was eventually prosecuted for "assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic."


On December 20, 2010, Panahi was given a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on making or directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media as well as leaving the country.

On Octorber 16, 2011, the appeal which is discussed in the film was denied, and Mr. Panahi can be taken to prison at any time.

The film's co-director, Motjaba Mirtahmasb, was arrested in September 2011, on his way to present This is Not a Film in Toronto. He was released on bail in December of 2011, after he was charged with being a spy for the BBC.

Since his detention in 2010, Panahi's cause has won international support from the film community. World-renowned directors, including Joel and Ethan Coen, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Robert De Niro, Ang Lee, Terrence Malick, Michael Moore, Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Frederick Wiseman, among many others, signed a letter of support calling for his release.

Confirming the importance of Mr. Panahi’s work as well as his trailblazing role in Iranian society, The European Parliament has recently honored him with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The Sakharov prize is widely considered to be the most important human rights award in the world. The Prize was shared with the imprisoned Iranian Human Rights Lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who just ended her 49-day hunger strike after Iranian authorities finally met her demand to stop harassing her family.  The European delegation canceled their visit to Iran in October 2012, after Iran refused for them to meet with, and present the prize to, both winners.

http://www.thisisnotafilm.net

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1 Comment

  • Ted | January 4, 2013 10:11 AMReply

    I personally think it's ridiculous that this is the first Panahi film to have critical or award show praise and says a lot about the pathetic state of criticism in the West. This is really his first film that's gotten any significant praise in the press in a meaningful way. A man who's directed such masterpieces as "The Circle," "Crimson Gold," and "Offside" - but apparently this documentary will be what he's remembered for in the West. I think it's a great documentary and it does beautifully capture his frustration, his fear, and his loneliness as a result of the oppression of the Iranian state. But it's clear it's not a singular achievement in essay film, nor is it even Panahi's best by a long shot. It's clear most critics interest in it is largely political. I don't have a problem with the praise being heaped on it, I think it's a wonderful documentary. It just saddens me that similar praise wasn't heaped on his other films which were substantial works of art. It's even worse that the critics haven't taken this opportunity to bring Panahi's other fantastic films to public attention. All that said, I have to say I'm happy a film that portrays Iranian oppression honestly getting a good reception after the excitement over "A Separation" last year. "A Separation" was a well-directed film, but it's presentation of divorce was unfair and dishonest and never confronted the degree of patriarchy built into the judicial system of Iran in an honest way.

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