Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This Is Not a Film (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Jafar Panahi)

Jafar Panahi.

What do you think will happen when you put a prolific filmmaker under house arrest? "This Is Not a Film", a sad portrait of how freedom of expression can sometimes be looked upon as nothing short of a political transgression, answers that question with both simplicity and ingenuity courtesy of director Jafar Panahi, whose socially realistic films have brought him a tad too close to the fire. 

Shot entirely inside his apartment using only one professional camera (and Panahi's camera phone), the film chronicles his house imprisonment and how boredom and frustration slowly plague his every waking day. For filmmakers and even aspiring ones like me, it's a truly depressing thing to behold because it shows someone like Panahi, a director at the peak of expressive strengths, suddenly pulled down to a creative standstill. 

With one of his restrictions being to carry a video camera and record things with it, Panahi's body is literally trapped and his mind figuratively shackled. For a filmmaker, nothing is more painful than that yet Jafar Panahi, with a demeanor that is surprisingly exuberant and pure even amid his situation, has thought of something: If it's illegal for him to tell a story through film, then maybe he can tell a story by way of spoken words, a hanging screenplay, and some masking tape. 

Acting and moving as if always out of breath, Panahi, in relative detail and great imagination, was able to make us and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (the man holding the camera) visualize the set (by putting tapes on the floor to serve as the various settings' walls and dimensions), the preferred shots (by description) and the emotional context of each and every scene that comprise the aforementioned screenplay that he is supposed to direct into a feature film. 

In these moments, one can really feel and see how Panahi suddenly transforms from a silently frustrated political prisoner into a spirited man of both grace and energy. To see him very eager to tell a story, even in the most limiting of conditions, is truly encouraging yet at the same time also saddening. Why must a country like Iran reach a point where its filmmakers, who all got something to say that's worth listening to, are prevented to do what they do best? And does a video camera impose the same kind of risk to Iranian authorities in much the same way a high-powered gun does? Or is it just the fact that their government is afraid of it the same way an authoritarian state is wary of rightful revolutionaries?

"This Is Not a Film", although a piece of work that's solely focused on Panahi's predicament, is also a subtly incising political commentary about the crumbling state of Iranian cinema. With a title that seems to inform both the audience and authorities in advance, as if in cautious defense, that 'this is not a film', ironically, it's still a thoroughly radical work. Smuggled out of Iran inside a cake so that it may reach a wider audience, "This Is Not a Film", both in content and context, is a work not just of political defiance but also of cinematic resilience.


No comments:

Post a Comment

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Ivan6655321's iCheckMovies.com Schneider 1001 movies widget