It’s often been said about art that having limitations imposed upon your work challenges the artist and allows for greater creativity. But what if you were to go one step further and not allow the artist to create at all. The limitations placed on the art and creativity of Jafar Panahi definitely makes him more attached to his work and long to create more. For who would choose to be a liberal film director in Iran right? Only truly committed, inspirational people like Panahi surely.
This Is Not A Film follows Jafar Panahi who is on house arrest for the duration of the documentary as he awaits his appeal against a six year jail sentence and 20 year ban from making films or leaving Iran, purely for making expressive films that the current regime do not agree with. An unusual documentary, the filming takes place in Panahi’s apartment block and contains a mixture of new film ideas with the evident stressful goings-on in Panahi’s life, against the backdrop of Tehran’s New Year’s firework celebrations. Panahi takes the ban on making films seriously and can only record via his documentary film-making friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb who must work the camera whenever Panahi wants to film for This Is Not A Film.
The documentary serves its purpose in that it effectively documents how stressful being the victim of oppression and bureaucracy must feel. The piece is also interesting in giving a side-look into contemporary Iran and sheds light on many aspects of modern life in the country. However, This Is Not A Film could not help but remind me of Persepolis – the animated film on the suppression many dissidents of the Iranian regime during the Iranian Revolution in 1978-79. It does beg the question of what has changed in that time? Other than the fact it is now possible to shoot an award-winning documentary in your own home, put it on a USB stick and smuggle it out of the country in a cake for the rest of the world to see, of course.