Sure it is---and a great one at that. If you follow world cinema news, then you know that in December 2010, Iranian writer-director Jafar Panahi (Offside) was issued a six-year prison term and banned from making movies for two decades by the Ahmadinejad regime. With help from documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Panahi shot this profoundly introspective feature clandestinely in his own apartment while he waited for his sentence to be handed down. (It was eventually smuggled out of Iran on a flash drive hidden in a birthday cake for a debut screening at Cannes.)
At first, it seems as if we're watching 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---a humorous interlude with a neighbor's dog, a brilliantly extended set piece focused on the building's garbage collector---that we're viewing a much more canny blend of fiction and fact, in line with the director's 1997 meta masterpiece, The Mirror. In that film, an actor breaks character as if tossing away shackles; there's no such hope for escape here, as 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.
Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich