Jafar Panahi is an influential, much-loved and acclaimed Iranian filmmaker. As a result of his humanist and socially critical films, he is facing a six-year jail sentence and is banned from making any more films for the next 20 years. In response Panahi and documentary filmmaker Mojtaba Mirtahmasb made this ‘non-film’ about his situation, and then had the results smuggled out of Iran.
This Is Not a Film documents Panahi’s response to no longer being able to create cinema. With a sly sense of humour that never fully overshadows his anguish, he speaks of future projects that will never be and his love for cinema’s unpredictability. It is also a wicked act of defiance with Panahi and Mirtahmasb finding whatever loopholes they can to make a film without technically doing so. Finally, it is an intricately crafted work about the art of filmmaking, filled with deliberate ambiguity about what has and hasn’t been staged.
Working within great restraints can result in remarkable films. Panahi proves that here and triumphs over a regime trying to silence him.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 393, 2011