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This Is Not a Film (DVD Review)

10 Mar, 2013 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Street 3/12/13
Palisades Tartan
Box Office $0.08 million
$19.95 DVD
Not rated.

Imagine being confined to your home and forbidden from doing what defines you as a person. It’s hard to fathom that was the hand dealt to Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, a vocal critic of his country’s government, in this day and age.

In December 2010, Panahi was given a six-year jail sentence and banned from making movies, writing screenplays, giving interviews or leaving Iran — all for “propaganda” against the regime. The reason we’re even able to see This Is Not a Film is because the movie was smuggled, rather brazenly, from the country to the 2011 Cannes Film Festival in a flash drive hidden in a birthday cake.

The film captures what begins as a rather drab day in the life of Panahi while his case was on appeal. The director eats breakfast, makes tea and feeds his daughter’s pet iguana cheese and greens. However, the heart of the film surfaces as Panahi reverts to reading the script of the last film he intended to make and blocking the scenes out in his living room while giving notes to his friend behind the camera, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who is listed as the project’s co-director. Since Panahi can’t do what he loves, he must be creative to stay in his artistic element.

Panahi later gets behind the camera, taking video with his cellphone of Mirtahmasb recording him and conversing with a young man in an elevator as he makes the rounds picking up trash from the building’s tenants.

Short and bittersweet, This Is Not a Film isn’t so much a pity party as it is a story of tenacity-fueled hope and subtle encouragement. Somehow we just know that Panahi will be all right, given his resolve and sense of humor about the whole thing.

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