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Friday, May 20, 2011

Jafar Panahi: This Is Not a Film (2010)

An image speaking volumes: Jafar Panahi waiting to be sentenced and sent to prison, in front of an image with the main character of his Crimson Gold; the hellish universe of his movies mirrored in his hellish universe, his infernal world mirrored in the infernal world of his movies.

Iranian director Jafar Panahi is one of world's most important moviemakers nowadays, while also a victim of the oppressive regime in his country. Arrested, together with other artists, during the events following the Iranian presidential elections in 2009, he spent several months in prison. He was freed then on bail while the judicial procedure against him was going on. Mr. Panahi was eventually sentenced to 6 years of prison and 20 years ban to make movies.

It was during the period spent at home in 2010 that Jafar Panahi made this movie, with the title This is Not a Film (In Film Nist). A friend, documentary producer Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (the author of Lady of the Roses, 2008), came with a consumer-grade camera and shot the footage for a 75 minutes video, having Mr. Panahi as co-director, screenwriter, film editor and star. The video was eventually smuggled outside Iran on a flash drive and screened at the 2011 Cannes Festival.

It's just that: 75 minutes in a day spent by Jafar Panahi at home, waiting for the result of the trial. He talks to the phone with his lawyer, then feeds his pet (who is a very nice iguana), then talks with the cameraman shooting the footage about a project for a new film, rejected by the censorship, memories from some of his movies come and go, suddenly a terrible noise of explosions is heard - it's nothing than fireworks, and Mr. Panahi goes to the window to shoot them with his cell phone.

A movie that is not a movie, says Mr. Panahi. It's just mundane reality. Well, it's not that simple: this movie is a non-movie while this non-movie is a movie. Because it's his reality, his universe, which is sending us to the universe of his movies. All his movies talk actually about him, about his universe, and it becomes obvious here, in this non-movie which carries all the tension between image and reality - reality sublimated in cinematic image. Like Mozart, this moviemaker thinks only in artistic constructions. For Mozart any fact of life was musical sound, musical rhythm, for Panahi every fact of life is cinematic image, cinematic rhythm. Look, even his concerns for the sentence to come become art! However, the strongest association should be made to Beethoven! This moviemaker carries all the tension between reality and art, all his creation is fully aware of the paradoxical relationship between reality and art: reality mirrored in art, art mirrored in reality, art suffering that reality struggles to keep its autonomy, reality suffering that it is taken for art.

(Jafar Panahi)



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