This Is Not a Film
dir. Jafar Panahi/Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, 2011, Iran
The bottom line: a movie that dares to answer the question “If we could tell a film, then why make a film?”
Now playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center is This Is Not a Film, a remarkable new documentary by and about Iranian director Jafar Panahi, one of contemporary cinema’s greatest and most socially conscious filmmakers. As is fairly well-known, this new “non-film” was made by Panahi while under house arrest following his conviction in December 2010 on vague charges of creating “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” Prior to shooting, Panahi had been sentenced to six years in prison and received a further 20 year ban on filmmaking, giving interviews or leaving the country. Incredibly, This Is Not a Film, made clandestinely and in collaboration with Panahi’s friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, was smuggled out of Iran on a USB drive hidden inside of a birthday cake and received its world premiere at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival last May. Since then it has played around the world to great acclaim including in the U.S. where it was picked up for distribution by Palisades Tartan. As far as I can tell, Panahi is presently in a stage of legal limbo known in Iran as “the execution of the verdict,” meaning he is free but can be re-arrested and sent back to prison at a moment’s notice. My advice to anyone reading this who is contemplating seeing This Is Not a Film is to do so immediately. The acclaim it has generated has nothing to do with critical sympathy for Panahi’s legal plight, as one might cynically assume. The movie, while impossible to evaluate without also contemplating the circumstances of its making, is essential viewing for anyone who cares about cinema.
One fruitful way to begin analyzing This Is Not a Film is to start with the provocative title, which has at least three possible meanings:
1) On the most superficial level, This Is Not a Film is literally not a “film.” It was shot on a consumer-grade digital camera primarily manned by Mirtahmasb and an iPhone operated only by Panahi. The lo-fi YouTube-quality aesthetics are appropriate given that the movie is essentially an intimate one-man show featuring Panahi at home over the course of one long day.
2) More importantly, This Is Not a Film refuses to function like what most viewers think of when they think of a “film” (i.e., it is not an escapist entertainment nor an easily digested and forgotten commercial object). Instead, it is closer to being a cinematic essay, one that engages viewers in a dialogue and requires them to contemplate the very nature of both filmmaking and human rights in the 21st century. The content is deceptively mundane: Panahi watches clips from his own films on DVD, attempts to feed his daughter’s pet iguana, receives a food delivery and, unforgettably, accompanies a neighbor on an excursion to take out the trash. But context is everything: these activities are set against the backdrop of the “Fireworks Wednesday” celebration of the Persian New Year and they have been carefully edited so that they build to a final image of a conflagration that is overwhelming in its poetic power.
3) On the most profound level, by making a film that declares itself a non-film, Panahi has protested his sentence while also cleverly and subversively complying with the Iranian authorities’ ban on filmmaking. The closing titles identify This Is Not a Film as an “effort by” Mirtahmasb and Panahi with no indication of how exactly the filmmaking duties were split up between them. A good chunk of their 75 minute effort is devoted to Panahi acting out scenes from a script that he wrote prior to being arrested. Provocatively, they involve a girl being forbidden to attend university by her father, who locks her in her bedroom instead. (The irony of Panahi playing the role of a girl who is essentially under house arrest is almost impossibly rich.) By bringing this story to light, even without proper actors and sets, Panahi raises the tricky question of whether or not he has actually made that film after all. Or has he instead merely become the subject of a documentary being made by Mirtahmasb, which he has not been banned from doing according to the dictates of his sentence? Ultimately, Panahi is asking what it means to make a film. Although Mirtahmasb is in charge of the cinematography, at least initially, Panahi can’t resist telling him where to point his camera and, on at least two occasions, also saying “Cut.” (I guess once a director, always a director.) In the final scenes, when Panahi finally picks up Mirtahmasb’s camera himself and ventures outside of his apartment, it feels like a genuinely radical act of defiance.
This Is Not a Film is at least the third recent Iranian movie to receive a Chicago debut this year, following Asghar Farhadi’s much-lauded (and Oscar-winning) A Separation and Rafi Pitts’ magnificent, criminally under-seen anti-thriller The Hunter (which played for a week at Facets to little fanfare). This recent spate of activity proves that Iranian cinema is alive and well even if the relationship between Iranian filmmakers and their government is growing increasingly tense. In an interview, Pitts has aptly summarized contemporary Iranian cinema by saying, “Dealing with censorship has become our art, how to say something, with certain rules.” In This Is Not a Film, Panahi has gone a step further by taking his own incarceration and filmmaking ban and turning them into a daring work of performance art. Panahi’s latest may not be a “film” in any conventional sense, but it is certainly a masterpiece.
April 16th, 2012 at 10:27 am
[…] Now Playing: This Is Not a Filmwhitecitycinema.comThis Is Not a Film dir. Jafar Panahi/Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, 2011, Iran Rating: 9.1 Now playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center is This Is Not a Film, a remarkable new documentary by and about Iranian d… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]
April 16th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
Thanks for linking to my blog. I just started following yours and I urge everyone who reads whitecitycinema.com to do the same: http://www.freejafarpanahi.wordpress.com
April 17th, 2012 at 12:59 am
At the rating of 9.3?? wow,it looks like a must-see for me.but any chance for people who does not live in US see this?
April 17th, 2012 at 9:53 am
David, it looks like the distributor will be releasing a DVD in August. It can be pre-ordered from amazon.co.uk (and features great cover art): This Is Not a Film DVD
Have you seen any of Panahi’s other films? He’s probably my 2nd favorite Iranian director (after Kiarostami). His 2006 comedy Offside is terrific.
April 17th, 2012 at 7:19 pm
No,I have never seen his films,but I have heard of Offside.I always got confused with those names of Iranian directors,really tough to remember.
April 20th, 2012 at 8:26 pm
[…] “This Is Not a Film,a remarkable new documentary by and about Iranian director Jafar Panahi, one of contemporary cinema’s greatest and most socially conscious filmmakers. ” – Micheal @ White City Cinema comments on This Is Not a Film […]
December 31st, 2012 at 11:19 am
[…] Chris Marker concludes his extraordinary 1993 documentary The Last Bolshevik by noting that, in the silent era, Russian director Alexander Medvedkin cried the first time he spliced two shots together and saw the result run through a motion picture projector. Marker then poignantly adds “Nowadays television floods the whole world with senseless images and nobody cries.” The antiquated notion of a movie inspiring someone to cry – not just over its content but due to the miracle of its construction – is unexpectedly resurrected in Jafar Panahi’s lo-fi-by-necessity This Is Not a Film. There was nothing in any film to first play Chicago in 2012 more moving or more profound than the scene where Panahi, under house arrest, concludes a lengthy description of his proposed next movie, one that he will probably never be able to make, by asking, “If we could tell a film, then why make a film?” There are tears of frustration in his eyes when he asks this question. Against all odds, This Is Not a Film ends up triumphantly providing the answer by refusing to exist as something that “can be told.” See it and weep for yourself. Full review here. […]
July 24th, 2013 at 7:13 am
[…] 9.2 The Master (Anderson, USA, 2012) – 9.2 Wild Grass (Resnais, France, 2009) – 9.2 This Is Not a Film (Panahi/Mirtahmasb, Iran, 2011) – 9.3 A Dangerous Method (Cronenberg, Canada/Germany, 2011) […]
January 20th, 2015 at 9:54 am
[…] Chris Marker concludes his extraordinary 1993 documentary The Last Bolshevik by noting that, in the silent era, Russian director Alexander Medvedkin cried the first time he spliced two shots together and saw the result run through a motion picture projector. Marker then poignantly adds “Nowadays television floods the whole world with senseless images and nobody cries.” The antiquated notion of a movie inspiring someone to cry — not just over its content but due to the miracle of its construction — is unexpectedly resurrected in Jafar Panahi’s lo-fi-by-necessity This Is Not a Film. There was nothing in any film to first play Chicago in 2012 more moving or more profound than the scene where Panahi, under house arrest, concludes a lengthy description of his proposed next movie, one that he will probably never be able to make, by asking, “If we could tell a film, then why make a film?” There are tears of frustration in his eyes when he asks this question. Against all odds, This Is Not a Film ends up triumphantly providing the answer by refusing to exist as something that “can be told.” See it and weep for yourself. Full review here. […]
June 20th, 2016 at 5:25 pm
This is not a film is a beautiful piece of art. In my honest opinion i think its borderline film worthy, but nonetheless a film by ALL means. Art is great because it’s just so wonderful that it can include anything it pleases, to please anyone included. I loved this film for a lot of its messages that it stands for, as well as its simple cinematic approach of storytelling. Sure, there wasn’t really a story to be told – but behind the lenses Panahi drove some brutal points about nationalism, politics, and sociology that can’t be missed. The script for the film won’t be placed in some museum like the Godfather’s and it won’t be decorated as an actual “script” but i think this film is the true definition of how far you can go with something you believe in. This film invites the Iranian government into Panahi’s home with a subtle “Fuck You” as he never takes credit for the actual filming and plans each shot to perfection – with the help of Mirtahmasb. I loved the film’s cinematography and what it stood for. There is always hope, and there is always a way to get your voice heard. Always.
June 21st, 2016 at 4:50 pm
A “subtle ‘Fuck You'” is the best three-word description of this film possible. 10/10
June 20th, 2016 at 7:58 pm
While watching “This Is Not A Film” I kept thinking of a movie I saw a few years back in nearly an identical style. In 2006 a film was released called “Street Thief,” which ran 85 minutes. This was the most surprising facet to me seeing as “This Is Not A Film” had a run time of 75 minutes. When viewing TINAF (“This Is Not A Film”) you are constantly in a state of confusion. It is a true that Panahi was in legal limbo. He had been arrested and was currently serving a 20-year ban which barred him from most all production of film. Keeping this in mind, the whole film is shot in a documentary style. For the most part it all seems real and genuine. Panahi sits on his couch and watches the television where the news reporter talks about the denouncement of “fireworks day” which surrounds his apartment. He reads about his legal limbo while his families iguana crawls across his chest onto the bookshelf. Near the end of the film you start to wonder was this all real, or did Panahi set this up? This is where I found the similarities between TINAF and “Street Thief.” “Street Thief” is filmed in a similar documentary style, the main subject Caspar acts like any other normal person would. The camera is free floating and follows him where he goes, as did the camera in TINAF. When something happens that is afflicting the main character they talk to the camera and/or the camera man about their problem. It all seems very real until the end of the film where you start the question if it was actually all set up. Where “Street Thief” is marketed and known as fiction, we are left without any clue as to how Panahi made his film. Due to his ban of film related activities he has not done an interview since 2010, before this film was released. I would consider TINAF a film, and a good one at that. Perhaps not for the plot or the action that comes to the screen, but in the willingness and perseverance in Panahi to continue his trade despite his governments oppression. Similar to Magritte’s painting “The Treachery of Images” Panahi draws heavily from “Ceci n’est pas une pipe. [This is not a pipe.]” It is up to the viewer’s discretion as to how they want to view his work. You may see it as a film while it isn’t or you may see it as something else, a vlog perhaps, while it stands as a film. Either way you look at it, the other way is wrong.
June 21st, 2016 at 4:56 pm
Good analogy with STREET THIEF (which I will definitely look into). Anybody can make a pseudo-documentary. Only a great filmmaker can generate ambiguity to the point where the viewer genuinely questions what’s real and what’s not. 10/10
June 21st, 2016 at 11:01 am
“This Is Not a Movie” by Jafar Panahi but responsibility is taken by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb for making the movie, very good title for making sure to not get into trouble for making the movie and being accused of breaking the law. First of all, I would like to give the big applause to Jafar for making this movie and taking a huge risk for following his dream. This movie presents one day of Jafar’s life in his house being at the home prison. Even if everything looks very realistic I would have to question if everything is really spontaneously done or maybe acted out. One day during home prison he mostly did what he loves to do which is recording the movie but also he showed his movies and commented them especially actors in them. He spent a lot of his time explaining scenes for his movie that he didn’t make yet and a movie should be about the Iranian girl who is home imprisoned by her dad who’s idea is to stop girl from attending the college which is girl’s dream. During acting as well as making scenes for this movie he suddenly stopped and said “If we could tell a film, then why make a film? And these words have the very strong message and in same time expresses his dissent about being home imprisoned.
June 21st, 2016 at 5:14 pm
Thanks for drawing the parallel between the film Panahi wanted to make (the one about the prospective college student) and the one he actually did make (THIS IS NOT A FILM). How rich is it that both deal with imprisonment and the realization of dreams?
June 21st, 2016 at 6:41 pm
I belive that Mr.Panahi wanted to make a movie which have close connection with his own life and scenes that he wanted to make where young girl is keept in the house out of her will and her dreams are forbidden represent him as a person in same situation because he is keept in house out of his will and also his dreams are forbidden by the someone else.
June 21st, 2016 at 3:14 pm
What stuck out to me the most while watching This is Not a Film was the reference to The Treachery of Images by Rene Magritte. It lead me to believe that Panahi was questioning the metaphysical definition of a film when he says, “If we could tell a film, then why make a film?”
Rene Magritte’s painting forces the viewer to look outside the normal conventions of thought and look at the not-pipe from an out of the box perspective. It makes the viewer question the metaphysical definition of a pipe and what a pipe really is and means. I think Jafar Panahi was applying the same philosophy to his not-movie, This is Not a Film. By telling the viewers the story of his screenplay that never got to see the light of day , did he accidentally create a film? I think this thought lead him to his thesis when he says, “If we could tell a film, then why make a film?”
This is also functions with the legality of him actually creating a film in traditional terms since he is barred from doing that for twenty years. He is trapped in his apartment much like his daughter’s pet Iguana. The whole movie seems to serve as symbolism for the definition of a film.
June 21st, 2016 at 5:36 pm
Good job relating this film’s title and meaning to Magritte’s famous painting. 10/10
June 21st, 2016 at 4:05 pm
The Iranian moviemaker Far Panahi has been experiencing a sense of alienation producing high quality films in the twenty-first century. His films express outrage about the lack of free expression among a large segment of well educated urban middle class people in Iran. Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from producing any films for twenty years because he refused to comply with the restrictions which were placed on him by the Iranian authorities. This is Not a Film is a form of political resistance against a specific type of organized artistic censorship.
This is Not a Film highlights a series of conversations between Mr. Panahi and his attorney (Mojtaba Mirtamasb) which take place inside his high rise apartment. He has been taken to court, but not officially sentenced by the Iranian political establishment. His telephone conversations are being monitored, and it appears that he is constantly under surveillance. Mr. Panahi is being held under house arrest —as he waits to hear whether he will have to serve a six year jail sentence. Furthermore, he is unsure whether he will ever have the freedom to speak freely in public or the privilege of traveling abroad. Mr. Panahi realizes he has a moral obligation to tell the world about the degree of social alienation which exists in Iran. He decided the only way left to accomplish this goal was to reinterpret portions of his previous films, utilizing an ordinary iphone and a digital movie camera, to point out how religion and politics are being used to suppress artistic freedom. Mr. Panahi draws upon his previous experiences and collaborates with Samira Makhmalbaf, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Abbas Klarostami to express his feelings of social alienation.
This Is Not a Film is a documentary which illustrates how important it is for every human being to have an opportunity to have a chance to speak whatever is on their mind. Mr. Panahi found it necessary to circumvent the courts in order to explain what it feels like to be a fimmaker sequestered in a high-rise apartment without being able to express his true feelings— in the middle of downtown Teheran. Needless to say, Far Panahi successfully produced an excellent documentary without writing a script or using any professional filmmaking equipment, and yet it is a shame he is forced to categorically deny this work of art is a film
June 21st, 2016 at 5:40 pm
Excellent analysis of TINAF as an act of political resistance. 10/10
June 21st, 2016 at 6:41 pm
This Is Not A Film, starring and “questionably” directed by Jafar Panahi, is an interesting view into the mind of an Iranian filmmaker who cannot stop directing even when banned from doing so by his own government. This ‘thing’ really captures what it means to be in love with ones profession. Even though as you’re watching, you can’t help but question the reality, it holds great meaning. There were some great representations of how Panahi is feeling in these days. For example, there is a shot of Iggi the Iguana climbing around the furniture and into the bookcase, then up the back of the bookcase to the near top. This may have been a representation of how Panahi feels being on house arrest. He is unable to go outside and enjoy what his life is meant to do. Such as, a wild animal held captive in an apartment. Also, there was a news cast on his TV, talking about the President of Iran saying that the holiday there known as fireworks Wednesday was not a religious based holiday and should not exist. Then, later on you can see and hear all the fireworks going off like crazy, like the people couldn’t be told not to enjoy their New Year tradition. This, to me, is another representation of Panahi’s feelings. The government puts a twenty year ban on him having any involvement in the making of a film and sticks him on house arrest. At this time, he finds a way to disobey such orders and makes a film about him, so one thinks. It also could’ve been made only to try and put the film for which he was banned for out into the world for the people to be heard. It was a film about a young girl being held captive by her father so she cannot go to University. While being held captive, he talks about how the young girl tries to come up with a plan to escape and also to commit suicide but then, he stops, saying “If you could tell a film, why make a film”. Later in the movie I thought it was interesting that a young man comes to his door, picking up the trash, was asked by Panahi, “You go to University?” and he responds “Yes” and Panahi saying “Good”. I don’t believe that everything in this ‘thing’ was absolutely planned out from the beginning but, Panahi definitely had his hand in the way some things laid out.
June 22nd, 2016 at 9:32 am
Good job noting the film’s symbolic images (the iguana, the fireworks) and also drawing a connection between the fictional university student in Panahi’s script and the real student at the end of the film. 10/10
June 21st, 2016 at 8:04 pm
This is not a Film is an engaging effort by Jaffer Panahi. It looks realistic in the sense that it is not attended to convey a story or plot, it is mostly directed by Jaffer Panahi. Panahi was banned from making movies for 20 years and had to find a way to sneak around it. He does a phenomenal job displaying his current life primarily through his home which he cant legally leave. The conversions appear genuine, although have a few moments when the audience can figure out that it’s preplanned such as when his son calls him. The opening seemed very genuine when Panahi is shown talking to his friend on the phone and he asks him to come over so they can discuss ideas. I thought the conversion with his lawyer was also real because they were talking about his legal case and mentioning the probability of Panahi’s punishment being reduced. I found his pet animal to be scary unlike Panahi who seemed to really enjoy his company. The ending is questionable on whether it’s pre-planned or real. When the man comes to pick up the trash, it seemed kind of pre-planned. Panahi does a good job on keeping only select people in his video. I think that the manner in which the flash drive so smuggled out was very cool. Why not simply put it in a birthday cake.
June 22nd, 2016 at 9:35 am
Good overview of what might be real and what might not be in Panahi’s film. 10/10
June 21st, 2016 at 9:41 pm
This is not a film is an interesting and provocative documentary about an Iranian director Jafar Panahi while he was under house arrest. I really applaud how he portrayed a script about a girl who wants to go a University but her parents doesn’t want to. As mentioned in the documentary he wasn’t able to make it due to some religious restrictions and being prevented by law. So he described it instead. It was perfectly described from the setting of the room, on what the girl would do, the other characters, and even how the girl would look like was described. All we have to do is to imagine it. I think it was great way to show it without violating restrictions! Like what Ivana said, I agree that the girl is very correlated with Jafar that both are being deprived of doing something they want, it is another way for us to understand his situation. Those scenes I believe is the most important part of the film. The Iguana also is a good representation of Jafar, I remember when he said that Igi was stubborn, I realized that it is similar with Jafar on how he defies the government and still continue making movies. I believe this movie is about the importance of freedom of expression. That we should not be silenced even if the government is against us and that we should always look for ways to express ourselves. By sentencing him to prison and prohibiting him to make more movies, he used this situation to gain attention internationally and he made TINAF as a way for people outside Iran to see their situation of having limited freedom of expression.
June 22nd, 2016 at 9:37 am
Nice analysis but you are quoting Ivona, not Ivana! 10/10
June 21st, 2016 at 9:59 pm
Movie “ This Is Not a Film” made by Jafar Panahi show us Jafar’s life under house arrest. This movie is based on his own life so he is the main actor of this film. The whole film looks like a blog or optional recording without any indication that it will be a film. During this film, Jafar refers to films that were filmed before this. He commented unpleasant situations that have happened during the recording of this movie, interesting moments while filming and what he should do to improve his films. The interesting thing about his movies is that he use nonprofessional actors for his movies and he admits that he is a non professional actor as well. In this film iguana, Igi attracted my attention. Igi is Jafar daughter’s pet who live with him in a hose. We can see the strong connection between Jafar and Igi. Their fate is the same that both of them are arrested in the house and can’t go out. As we know, Jafar is preparing scenes for another movie during which the gradient pronounced feelings on one very important sentence and that is ”If we can tell the film why we make a film.” This sentence has strong meaning in his life and Iranian politics. That is related to his life if he can tell the movie to the people why should he make a movie and spend more energy doing that. Although we all know that movie can better demonstrate filings and better explain the story than words. Also, at the end of the movie the character that I need to mention is a guy who picks up the trash. He is the really important actor in this film because he causes this film to have the happy ending by calling Jafar to live house and bring his camera. This scene is important because after a long time Jafar had a chance to leave his house and go outside for a moment. I think this film is very instructive and teaches us that we need to do what we love and that no one can keep us from doing what make us happy.
June 22nd, 2016 at 9:49 am
I agree the aesthetics of this film resemble a video blog and I love that you consider the ending to be “happy.” Who knew the act of picking up a video camera and leaving one’s home could seem so triumphant?
June 21st, 2016 at 10:16 pm
Jafar Panahi has established one of teh greatest subtle documentary “films” I have ever seen with “This is Not a Film”. Not only does it make the viewer question what is real and what is not, but it is all done while Panahi is under house arrest. I love the act of rebellion being displayed here. Were the phone calls at the beginning staged or were they genuine. Was the guy taking out the trash in the elevator an “actor” that Panahi got to help make this film, or was it just by coincidence that they ran into each other by the elevator? Was the woman with the dog another actor? So many questions that I ponder after watching this film; all just more proof that this is a great piece of work. The name of this feature itself is questionable. This feature gives me a great amount of respect for Panahi and his skills as a director and film maker. To have so many limitations and to still be able to crank out this feature using an iPhone and a “better camera”, as the guy taking out the trash put it, just amazes me. This feature, if nothing else, is the symbolism to never giving up and to do what you love no matter who tells you that you cannot. “If we could tell a film, then why make a film?” was a great question that also got me thinking. This is something I never really thought about before, and since I write a lot of short stories (that no one ever reads), this really hit home with me; Writing a story is literally just the act of telling a story on paper, after all. I understand his question on a writing level. There are times when I write a part of my story and think about how the scene would be on the big screen, how everyone would act, how the words would be said, so on and so forth. It is dificult to display genuine emotion on paper, where as seeing it on the big screen is much easier, given we are visual creatures. I am also a comic reader and even though I love reading comics, I much prefer to see the anime or movies about the comics then actually reading them. There is something much more pleasing watching the films or anime in my case than to just read them. In short, if you could tell a film, there would be no point in making the film. That is the sole difference between writing a book and directing a movie. You can display so much more emotion and understanding directing the movie than with the books, also granted good writers also find ways to make the readers feel certain ways while reading, but it is much more powerful to see than it is to read…at least in my opinion. I thouroughly enjoyed watching “This is Not a Film” and deep down am rooting for this film to get much more popular to give Panahi the edge he needs to start directing films legaly again. Loved every minute.
June 22nd, 2016 at 9:42 am
Great analysis of TINAF as act of political and artistic rebellion. 10/10
June 22nd, 2016 at 12:45 am
“This is Not a Film” is a commentary on filmmaking in Iran by Jafar Panahi and directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. Made after Panahi was put on house arrest and banned from filmmaking by the Iranian government, this valiant act of rebellion was smuggled out of the country on a USB stick baked into a cake.
The film comments carefully, respectfully, but still critically of Iranian film censorship. Panahi himself mentions how Iranian filmmakers spend the majority of their efforts attempting to creatively dance around the laws, and in doing so turning their films into allegories for what they originally intended to say. His remarks regarding how frustrating it is to have to limit himself when attempting to act out one of his screenplays hits deep, and makes a good point in the process — “If we could tell a film, why make a film?” Panahi answers that question quickly and effectively. Another particularly moving scene is when he and Mirtahmasb turn their cameras towards each other, just rolling tape as they capture the face and reactions of a director-turned actor.
While the film’s insight is profound, what’s most astounding is how carefully Panahi dances around ever being considered the director of it. The entire movie is sprinkled with a thin layer of plausible deniability: each time Panahi picks up a camera, it is only because a friend told him to. While the custodian and “dog lady” were quite obviously actors, how can you prove it? There’s still some off-chance, at least legally, that this is NOT a film — and the title highlights that.
June 22nd, 2016 at 10:00 am
“Plausible deniability” is a great way to describe Panahi’s questionable authorship of this film. I’m also glad you mentioned the profound moment where the two directors film each other.
June 22nd, 2016 at 2:30 am
“This is not a movie” I look at it as a box of treasure this movie was made by the author to say that there’s nothing to hold you back from making your dreams to become true also I look at it from a different point of view, where he is trying to say that Cinema should not be controlled by anyone and anyone should be able to say his feelings and ideas without restrictions or someone to hold you back from doing it.
Every time an author make a movie than he well have a fake hero but in this movie Jafar was a true hero who lives in our days and he also was the main character of the whole movieز
Also this movie open my eyes to a new type of drama that I never thought of or maybe I thought it won’t work but Jafar made the imposable and he has been able to tell the story without having the actors and the houses but basically he used a tape to build his imagination and he was very successful to deliver the ideas into are brain smoothly.
Overall the movie that is not a movie was well done by very smart and intelligent person how I really want to watch other movies for him.
June 22nd, 2016 at 10:03 am
Good distinction between the “true” hero of this non-movie and the “fake” heroes of most other movies. Hope you get to his films TAXI and OFFSIDE.
June 22nd, 2016 at 4:36 am
In Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film, it portrays the life of the filmmaker as he awaits his sentencing for producing a film that was viewed as propaganda against the Islamic Republic. Panahi and his friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb film a sequence of events as they occur in Jafar’s home, it is only until the end that Jafar actually leaves the building perhaps symbolizing freedom. This could be a sign of how censorship in Iran affects the art of filmmaking. Jafar is confined in his home for most of the film and there is not much he can do in terms of filmmaking due to his ban, and so he and his friend avoid using terminology that would allow the authorities to use this film against him. Censorship by the government acts as a restraint and is the main theme of this film and Jafar uses the limited resources at his disposal to ensure that he can get the message to the outside world. For the most part, most of the behavior seems unscripted, but if examined closely, it could seem like that was what Jafar was aiming for. He puts his attorney on speaker phone and she explains the whole case while he records the phone call. Now Jafar already knows his charges and why he is being prosecuted, but in order for the viewers who are watching this outside of Iran, he uses this as his method of spreading the message that censorship is not a religious issue, but rather political. Panahi’s goal was to spread as message of change and bring the world defend a form of art that will bring real change to the world.
June 22nd, 2016 at 10:04 am
Great point about the film taking on political (not religious) censorship. 10/10
June 22nd, 2016 at 10:39 am
Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film from 2011 has a documentary like feel to it. You are to assume that what you are seeing is set to take place over the course of a day. And if I am not mistaken it coincides with Iranian New Year. The backstory given in this pseudo documentary is that Panahi was arrested and convicted a few months prior for charges of planning to film propaganda against the current political scene in Iran and he is isolated in his condo awaiting a verdict and final sentencing. It is stated that as of the day depicted in the film he has a 6 year prison term as well as a 20 year ban from leaving the country as well as from writing and directing movies. I call this a pseudo-documentary simply because in appearances it has the look and feel of a documentary but the emotion and actions within feel staged and that certain aspects give a level of deniability to Panahi if the Iranian Government used it against him. There are number of times when this happens. For instance in the beginning when Panahi is listening to the message from his wife being recorded on the phone. It starts off stating a where they are and why he was alone in the condo. Simply it’s his wife saying they are going to take their son to give New Years gifts to family. Where it begins to get sketchy is when the phone is handed to his son and the only thing that is mentioned is that he turned the camera on and that it’s sitting on the chair facing the bed and that the battery is going. There several more instances where it feels like to much coincidences. Like when his filming partner/cameraman Mojtaba Mirtahmasb cues he is ready to leave and the part-time janitor is randomly there. Then there is the neighbor’s dog Micky. This yapping pooch showed up twice as if to close a comedic punchline. After watching this I was curious. I watched Panahi’s most recent film Taxi from 2015 and the same themes that were more subtle in This Is Not a Film became more obvious. Panahi discovered a loophole in which appearances stay within the terms of his ban but he can still produce movies. I will not go too far into but much like in This Is Not a Film the people filmed and doing the filming in Taxi take on the role as director, masking it away from Panahi. One instance is when a passenger cues him to take a turn and use a different street they are met with a bizarre coincidence where they stumble on an accident and then have to take a seemingly bloodied and dying man to the hospital. Overall I enjoyed both films. It shows that creative thinking can find alternatives to ultimately fulfil your passion in life. Two statements from both films that Panahi said come to mind. In This Is Not a Film, “ If we could tell a film then why make a film?” and from Taxi “ I think all movies are worth watching.”. If I were to combine these two thoughts it could be simply be put Ideas need to be filmed and films need to be watched.
June 22nd, 2016 at 12:09 pm
So glad you TAXI and that you were able to see how it functions as a companion piece to THIS IS NOT A FILM – though I think the recent film is even more “staged” than its predecessor. 10/10
June 22nd, 2016 at 10:45 am
“This Is Not a Film” was probably my least favorite film we have watched so far in this class. I didn’t like the movement behind his camera. I understood that he and his friend were the ones holding it, but I don’t like the fact that it wasn’t controlled. The most interesting part was when he broke down trying to explain the movie he wanted to record so badly. It gave a sense of defeat and that made it more believable that Jafar didn’t plan this film. When you saw him start to explain the movie he wishes he could create, you can see how hard he is trying to explain it and how it is frustrating him more and more as he gets into detail with it. He looks at his actors and actresses as directors to his films as well because he allows them to play their part completely based on how they would visualize each scene. As soon as Jafar began to explain the emotion of how the little girl felt he lost himself because he didn’t understand the concept of him trying to explain the movie he was going to once create since he can’t even create it anymore. I still felt his emotion throughout the movie even though most of it seemed as if he planned it.
June 26th, 2016 at 12:54 pm
June 22nd, 2016 at 11:15 am
This Is Not a Film, by Jafar Panahi, was one of the most interesting works I have ever seen. I am attempting to not call this work a film due to the title as well as the efforts Panahi made to make sure he wasn’t technically making a film according to the Iranian government. I thought this was a wonderful film because it shows how much effort Panahi put in to creatively make a work as well as secretly export the work to be viewed by people worldwide. This film really struck me when Panahi was talking out his screenplay for a film that was never made. He began to go into great detail and depth, then stopped and said something that really made me think of films in a new way. He said, and I paraphrase, that if you can tell a film why make a film. He goes on to show a few clips from other films and explains how it is impossible to show the emotion of characters through a screenplay. The actors, especially amateur ones, act in a way that cannot be taught. They act in their own way that sometimes is perfect even though they aren’t professionals. The work was wonderfully made with both the dog and the Iguana being pivotal characters bringing comedy into his work that would have otherwise been very serious. I really enjoyed the film and will see Asghar Farhadi’s, A Seperation, as suggested by Professor Smith and hope it has as much of an impact on me as This Is Not a Film.
June 26th, 2016 at 12:55 pm
June 22nd, 2016 at 11:42 am
“This Is Not A Film” by Jafar Panahi is an excellent film that is cleverly made. The whole films oozes with rebellious feelings. Panahi is very clever to how he portrayed his film and it took me a while to understand what he had actually done in the film. If it was not for our class lecture and discussion about the film, I would have still be in the dark about some things. As one student mentioned in our class, “Its a film about a film, that is not supposed to be a film”. Yes that is mind boggling, but it is true. As Mr. Smith stated in his post, the lo-fi Youtube quality of the footage really gives the viewer a good idea on how alone Panahi is. There are clear anti government pieces in the film which Panahi did an excellent job portraying indirectly. Panahi does a good job to show his thoughts about the government and his film is an accurate representation to what its like after being so rebellious to the government. There is no doubt in my mind the elevator part is all thought out, but it is done so well it actually felt as if it was an on the spot move. You could see Panahi’s joy in his face when he once again holding a camera and filming people and I believe thats an important aspect. As Mr. Smith stated in his post, the film is truely about how Panahi is demonstrating against the government while also complying with their rules. Just the name of the movie itself is enough evidence to see how much compliance Panahi has done. As Mr. Smith put it, “The act of defiance” by Panahi is when he leaves his apartment unit to adventure out with the guy taking out the trash. The leaving the apartment unit scene is filled with rebellious feelings, especially when we see the fire at the end. The film closing off on the fire had a strong impact on me because I felt as if it only the beginning for Panahi.
June 26th, 2016 at 12:55 pm
June 22nd, 2016 at 12:04 pm
I enjoyed watching This is Not a Film. I at first felt bad for Jafar. I think older male on house arrest missing out on so much that’s going on outside. I would rather be a prisoner in a cell than a prisoner in my own home. I would even believe I’d become a tad bit crazy than usual. One of the scenes where Jafar is speaking to Mojtaba and is giving the breakdown of the screenplay he can’t film, I almost thought my thoughts were being confirmed. He seemed like a mad man speaking quickly, voice escalating and he’s constantly moving, picking up the tape and ripping it to make a room or a kitchen, but then he stops and he starts speaking about the plot of the film. Jafar begins to tear up a bit and says, “if you can tell a film, why make a film..” In that moment, the tone of the film changed for me. If I were banned from doing what I love then I would find a way to keep the creativity in me alive. When Mojtaba refuses to cut the camera and says to Jafar, you called me here to make something great right? Something with a deeper meaning it was then that I began to view This is Not a Film as a teaching moment from a great director to a student (Mojtaba) and to others whom may be curious about the filming world, the viewers.
The first lesson was when Jafar was talking about the actors and how there was no way he could teach his actors to do what they did on screen. We see him showing Mojtaba bits of films he directed and saying look here at the woman running. By not giving her specific direction but by telling her to run, all that was going on in the background with the vertical lines guides you. He tells Mojtaba when to cut, and how to hold the camera. He even asks Mojtaba by staying in this room how is your lighting?
Another teaching moment was more so for the viewers. It seemed like this movie had all of the characteristics of what can make a great film. We had laughter with his neighbor and her dog as well as his daughter’s pet iguana.
We saw drama when Jafar was on the phone with his friend and he says there’s so much going on the streets, I should go pick up your wife, the cops are pulling everyone over, hold on they discovered me. He abruptly hangs up, calls back within two minutes and describes a bit of an over the top story about his camera on the passenger seat, and how there are just so many people being stopped.
There is a sadness in the film when Jafar talks about a character that he created and how she contemplated suicide for being in the same position Jafar was in. Caged up from being in the world of arts.
The end of the film when Jafar steps outside and there is a burst of flames going on and the camera is still felt like the last lesson is to capture a moment and here’s how to hold it. Jafar didn’t have to explain anything then.
June 26th, 2016 at 12:56 pm
June 22nd, 2016 at 12:09 pm
Jafar Panahi’s film, This Is Not a Film, is by far one the most creative films I have ever seen. During the film I was a bit puzzled at what Panahi’s motives were and it wasn’t until towards the end of them film where I realized Panahi’s unique approach to deliver his message. In This is not a film, Panahi carefully resists and challenges the political tyranny of the Iranian government without disobeying the bans imposed on him. Because Panahi was/is banned from making movies, he was forced to find a clever way to produce this movie without taking the credit for it. On its surface, the film may seem a bit bland and uninteresting, but after taking a deep look at the symbolism and the “coincidental” events that occur throughout the film, it becomes easier to understand and admire this film. For example the day Panahi decided to make this film, it was Persian new year, a day where fireworks are constantly being lit up and people are outside celebrating. In one scene during the film Panahi is flipping through the channels and stops at the news, at that very moment the news caster mentions the president of Iran calling Persian New year un islamic and not a real holiday. If you juxtapose the two events, it becomes easy to realize that Pahai is criticizing the iranian government without saying a word, instead he lets his art do all the talking, which is why this movie is fantastic
June 26th, 2016 at 12:59 pm
June 22nd, 2016 at 12:52 pm
I think that the two mentions of art universities work as metaphors for about the same thing. There is the fictional girl who got accepted into an arts program and was kept from attending, and there’s Hasan, who’s actually studying art, and just before the end he says that “The worst thing is that you graduate with a masters degree and then there’s no job for you.” Then he incinerates the trash, which I suppose is the general hope for younger generations. Take out the trash… Antother metaphor, but this is digressing from the university-metaphor-thing.
In both cases the character has been accepted by an ‘arts community’, the universities, sort of like Panahi has established himself as a filmmaker, he has been accepted by the arts community as being a good artist. Both characters are also being withheld from pursuing their artistic ambitions by some outside authority. The father, the job-market, and the Panahi-parallel is, of course, the Iranian government. It certainly is ironically amusing to see the strong parallel between Panahi’s snuffed out film and his real life situation.
These images might be most treacherous because they’re kind of a lie about a lie.
Pipe — Painting of a pipe
Film — … Film? Video? Video of a film? There are videos of his films, and video of an excerpt of a film that’s not a film.
The ‘representation’ side doesn’t completely correlate. The thing that it (the film) claims it is-not, is of-the-medium. But it is of-the-medium—as long as we use the definition of ‘film’ as being synonymous with ‘movie’. The real treachery of the film is Panahi’s rebellion against the efforts of the Iranian government (who have themselves exhibited terribly treacherous treatment toward Panahi) to keep him from creating. He subverts their inane restrictions and gracefully dives through the loopholes of his sentence. The film that is truly like the pipe of the painting is the ‘film’ within the film; the ‘film’ that’s not a film. It is the pipe because it is not a real film. It hasn’t been made, and it only exists as a representation of what it could be, lacking all the detail, function, and ‘mistakist’ happenings of actual film-making.
Why make a pipe when you can paint a pipe?
This Is Not a Film is sort of like if The Treachery of Images was actually painted on a pipe.
June 26th, 2016 at 12:59 pm