So I went to see This is Not a Film last night. I'm really glad I heard an interview with another Iranian filmmaker on NPR the other day because he provided some background which enhanced my understanding of the film.
In case you're not familiar with it, This is Not a Film is the latest effort by Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. He was recently banned from making films for the next 20 years and sentenced to 6 years in prison by Iranian authorities. He "made" this latest "film" while waiting to hear the results of his last appeal. He got it out of the country by putting it on a thumb drive which was then smuggled out inside a cake!
Since he is not allowed to "make" films, he had a friend come over and film him as he tells the story of the screenplay for the next film he was planning to make. As he says in the movie, he is not banned from acting or reading a screenplay.
But there is a lot more to this movie than that. He sets it during a traditional Iranian New Year's celebration which is frowned upon by the Ayatollah because it comes from a pre-Islamic tradition. Celebrating this holiday is a way that Iranians can protest against their government. All through the "film" you hear fireworks outside of Panahi's apartment and he has several phone conversations with friends and family about the atmosphere outside, including one friend who is stopped by police.
Another important aspect of the "film" is the way women are included. By law in Iran, if a woman is shown in a film she must be veiled even if the scene takes place inside the character's home where women are never veiled. It means that women can never be portrayed realistically in Iranian films. In This is Not a Film there are women, but we never see them, we hear them on the phone or we see Panahi conversing with them through an open door, but we never see the women.
I also really enjoyed some of Mr. Panahi's philosophizing on the nature of directing. He is frustrated at having to tell the story of his next film because it often changes in the act of filming and so he doesn't really know how it would turn out if he were able to make it. He discusses this while showing examples from his earlier films.
If you like movies and are interested in learning more about Iran, this is a great film. Go see it if you can.