This Is Not a Film


Sure it is—and a great one at that. Iranian writer-director Jafar Panahi (Offside), issued a six-year prison term and banned from making movies for two decades, shot this profound feature clandestinely in his own apartment while he awaited sentencing. It plays like a day-in-the-life documentary: Panahi talks with his lawyer, feeds his family's scene-stealing pet iguana and acts out sequences from a never-realized script. But there are clues throughout—especially during a humorous interlude with a neighbor's dog, as well as a brilliantly extended set piece focused on the building's garbage collector—that this is a much more canny blend of fiction and fact in line with the director's meta-masterpiece, The Mirror. In that film, an actor breaks character as if tossing away shackles. No such hope for escape here: The threat to Panahi's life and livelihood is ominously, omnipresently real. That he nonetheless meets this terrible situation with dignity and effusiveness is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking.—KU

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New York Film Festival 2011

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