A Video From Tehran: It”™s Not What It Isn”™t, but What It Is
by A. O. Scott
The New York Times
February 28, 2012
He”™s Jafar Panahi, but “˜This Is Not a Film”™
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.