There’s nothing like a little harsh reality to put movies in perspective. Just ask Jafar Panahi, an accomplished Iranian filmmaker who has gained unwanted fame in recent years after being singled out by the government of Iran for “acting against national security and creating anti-regime propaganda.” He currently lives in limbo, unable to leave his own apartment as he awaits action on his six-year prison sentence. He must also abide by a 20-year ban on traveling outside of Iran, talking to the press, and practicing his art—or not.
This Is Not a Film is Panahi’s act of defiance. Smuggled out of Iran on a flash drive hidden inside a cake, this not-quite-a-film was shot inside Pahani’s apartment as he putters around the house, watches his old movies on DVD, discusses his legal case on the phone with his lawyer, and indirectly addresses his ongoing plight. Key scenes are difficult to watch. He decides to read his script, the one he would be shooting at that moment if he could, but stops in frustration after just a short time. “If we could tell a film, then why make a film?” he asks.
Casual viewers may run from Panahi’s peculiar work. But This Is Not a Film is a small and affecting piece of art—and a courageous act of near-epic proportions.
This Is Not a Film begins a one-week run tonight, Friday, March 23rd, at Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in New Orleans.