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.