In film nist (This is Not a Film)

Poster for In film nist (This is Not a Film)

Winter 2013 Documentary series

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi

Screenplay by Jafar Panahi

Starring Jafar Panahi

Rated NR · 1h 15m

View trailer

In film nist (This is Not a Film)
Renowned Iranian director, Jafar Panahi, received a 6-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban from filmmaking and conducting interviews with foreign press due to his open support of the opposition party in Iran’s 2009 election.

In this documentary, which was secretly shot on an iPhone and a modest DV camera by Panahi’s close friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and smuggled into France in a cake for a last-minute submission to Cannes, Panahi shares his day-to-day life as he waits for a decision on his appeal.

Since his detention in 2009, Panahi’s cause has won international support from the film community. Juliette Binoche was instrumental in bringing his story into the spotlight at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival when she took the stage carrying a sign that read JAFAR PANAHI and Isabella Rossellini followed suit at the Berlin International Film Festival. World-renowned directors, including Joel and Ethan Coen, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Robert De Niro, Curtis Hanson, Jim Jarmusch, Ang Lee, Richard Linklater, Terrence Malick, Michael Moore, Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese, James Schamus, Paul Schrader, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone and Frederick Wiseman signed a letter of support calling for his release. In December, Sean Penn, Martin Scorsese, and distributor Harvey Weinstein, among others, signed an Amnesty International petition for him as well.

More recently, his co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb was detained at the Tehran airport while heading over to attend the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, which sent shockwaves throughout the international film community. Panahi, whose critically acclaimed work includes OFFSIDE (2006) and THE CIRCLE (2000), and co-director Mirtahmasb are currently banned from filmmaking and from leaving the country. Both men are accused of fomenting anti-government propaganda through their movies. Panahi’s appeal was denied in October 2011. According to the Islamic Republic’s laws, he could be arrested and sent back to jail at any time.

A Video From Tehran: It’s Not What It Isn’t, but What It Is

“The title This Is Not a Film nods in the direction of René Magritte’s famous painting of a pipe, but at least at first glance, this new 75-minute work of cinema by Jafar Panahi has little in common with any sly Surrealist prank.

This video essay was recorded in Tehran last year, as Mr. Panahi, one of the leading Iranian filmmakers of the past decade, was under a legal assault from his government that included the confiscation of his passport, the threat of a long prison sentence and an even longer ban on making movies.

Careful to obey the letter of that injunction — and thus exposing the preposterousness as well as the meanness of its spirit — Mr. Panahi did not write a screenplay or wield a full-size camera. A colleague, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (credited as co-director), comes to his apartment to shoot, and Mr. Panahi restricts his activities to talking, recording with his iPhone, commenting on some of his earlier films and reading aloud from existing scripts. So if this is not a film, it is, among other things, a statement of creative resistance in the face of tyranny and a document of intellectual freedom under political duress.

But that “among other things” brings us, in a way, back to Magritte, because while This Is Not a Filmbristles with a topical, real-world urgency pointedly excluded from the Surrealist project, it is also a provocative, radical and at times surprisingly playful meditation on the nature of representation. Using modest, ready-to-hand techniques and a format that seems to emphasize the most banal, literal-minded, artless aspects of picture taking, Mr. Panahi has constructed a subtle, strange and haunting work of art.” (A.O. Scott, The New York Times)