The Iranian Government has enjoyed the reflected glory of the country’s independent filmmakers’ critical success on the international circuit for almost 20 years. It led to an uneasy compromise with the regime often turning a convenient blind eye to productions that blatantly flaunted its arbitrary and dogmatic list of absolute prohibitions, only to ban them from internal exhibition as a matter of routine. Along the way, there have been some tricky moments with filmmakers pushing the boundaries further than this vicious dictatorship would tolerate but things took a more sinister turn when Jafar Panahi stepped firmly into the political arena and declared his support for the green revolution in exercise of his basic human right. The regime’s emphatic and characteristically disproportionate response has left Panahi facing a six year jail term and a 20-year ban from filmmaking.
This Is Not A Film is Panahi’s quiet but equally emphatic response, shot with an i-phone and small video recorder over a period of a single day in his apartment where he remains on house arrest pending the outcome of an appeal. We hear his lawyer managing her client’s expectations during polite mobile phone conversations; a slightly reduced sentence was his best hope it seemed with ‘egg on the face’ u-turns being out of the question.
Fellow filmmaker, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, controls the camera and Panahi sardonically redefines his role as an actor delivering improvised lines, something which the carelessly drafted ban did not exclude. Not that the authorities are concerned with the niceties of legal interpretation in these parts where brave acts of defiance are the only means of challenge to the regime’s unlawful authority.
We receive a privileged insight into his creative thought process as he embarks upon a reading of the screenplay for what should have been his next film but now seems unlikely to be made. It concerns a young girl under a different kind of house arrest at the insistence of her over-protective parents that fully embrace the regime’s edicts. Acting with a compulsive urgency, as if anxious to capture a moment of creativity before it was lost, he uses masking tape to mark out a Dogville-style film set and proceeds to explain the opening scenes with some tellingly inventive asides on each aspect of the film’s form. But as the title says, this is not a film, and the mock substitute serves to intensify the absence of the real thing, provoking Panahi to display his one and only emotional outburst of frustration.
By contrast, he plays DVD clips of his films and explains the necessary process of partial improvisation necessary to bring them into existence, capturing those aspects of reality that elude a screenplay. We see the key moment from his 1997 film, The Mirror, where Panahi switches from fiction to quasi-documentary when a child actor refuses to continue with a part. It comes close to creating a ‘found story’ in the André Bazin sense, flowing from a filmmaker exercising an act of spontaneity of a kind that the authorities have now so cruelly denied.
These telling excursions into Panahi’s film world are temporary distractions from a mundane existence where the heavily censored Internet remains his main link to the outside. We see him killing time, looking out of his window and occasionally engaging with a pet iguana that slowly advances around the apartment with a contented simplicity that touches a nerve. When a student with a part-time caretaking job turns up to collect the garbage, Panahi seizes the opportunity for an impromptu interview, following him to the gates with an excited enthusiasm that almost tempted him to cross the line onto the streets where the locals were enjoying a Persian festival.
Word has it that Panahi smuggled the film out of Iran on a USB stick concealed within a cake prior to its high profile screening as a late addition to the Cannes Film Festival. There can be no doubt that the film’s mere existence is testament to a heroic act of personal defiance but the viewing becomes all the more affecting for an unforced dignity that Panahi displays throughout. The international community has reacted angrily to this appalling misuse of state power but, sadly, it is unlikely to cut any ice with this vile regime.motilium salewhere can i buy motilium in ukbuy motilium tabletsorder domperidone from canadawhere to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone from canada