This is Not a Film (2011), dir. Jafar Panahi







In 2010, Iranian director Jafar Panahi was put under house arrest due to his open support of the opposition party in Iran’s 2009 elections. He was then sentenced to 6 years in prison and was given a 20-year ban from filmmaking. This is Not a Film is a documentary depicting Panahi’s day-to-day life confined in his apartment in Tehran while he awaits the final decision on his appeal (one of several). The footage was supposedly smuggled out of Iran in a cake and submitted to the Cannes Film Festival.

I haven’t seen the film yet – it will be screening at the Kendall Square Cinema for exactly one week starting Friday, May 4th. However, reading reviews got me thinking about how this “non-film” fits (or doesn’t fit) into the themes of our course. Are any of the theoretical frameworks we’ve covered useful for thinking about the movie? It does not undermine the government in the same way that comedies, cartoons, films, and forbidden jokes do in Wedeen’s discussion of resistance. It also does not challenge official meanings and idealized versions of the government in the same way as Farzhat’s work does. And yet, the production of this documentary is clearly an act of defiance. The question of “Who is the intended audience?” is also interesting in this case because this film can be interpreted as a message to the Iranian government, but to even get this message across requires it to be screened in front of an international audience. Maybe it’s too soon to say, but I think this is an important film, especially in light of how Iran’s Culture Ministry recently closed down the independent Iranian House of Cinema on the grounds that the organization was deviating from Islamic and poltical guidelines. I’m curious to see how all of these themes will play out and what new insights the film gives into Iranian cinema.

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2 Responses to This is Not a Film (2011), dir. Jafar Panahi

  1. This sounds like a really cool film! Do you know if the screening at Kendall will be the world premier, or if it has been screened elsewhere before? Also do you think it’s meant to be a critique of the Iranian government, or is it more focused on giving a portrait of a producer and his work under oppression?

    The question that you bring up about the intended audience is very interesting. I agree with you on that to reach a censored government like Iran you do need to go outside of the country to make a statement. That has been true for many other Iranian forms of protesting media as well, like the artist Mana Neyestani and his protests through political cartoons ( Hopefully that will change soon…

    • Hoai Le says:

      The film premiered at Cannes in 2011 and has been screened at various film festivals around the world. It just recently started screening at limited theaters around the US. From what I know, it does not critique the Iranian government at all (at least not overtly). It’s more focused on, as you said, “giving a portrait of a producer and his work under oppression.” But clearly something is wrong when artists are being punished in this way and when creativity is being suppressed like so.

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