Monday, March 11, 2013
To be an artist in Iran---whether it be music, film, dance, writing, or just about any such endeavor---and to truly express one's views on society or step outside the rigid parameters set by the cleric-run government is to creatively maneuver around the oppressive censorship binding freedom of expression and to be then willing to pay a mighty high price for the attempt and the affront to those in power. Such experienced pain is beautifully presented in Jafar Panahi (the award-winning Iranian filmmaker) and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb's This is Not a Film (2011), a satirical attack against state censorship of movie making and a cry for reform, even as the former awaits news of the final judgement that will certainly send him to jail for some period (six years) and possibly take away his ability to ever produce a film again (twenty-year ban). I have enjoyed several of his films over the years, which often focus on restrictions in Iranian society (specially those placed on women) and continued class divisions. Filmed partly in iPhone in Panahi's posh apartment as he suffered house arrest, the "movie" masterfully pokes fun at the stupidity of censors, but also reveals how painful and scared his is that he will soon be seriously punished and be denied the opportunity to continue creating. His films have largely been banned in his own country, but have been richly and frequently awarded and are hailed internationally. As I write this review he is still in jail, a persecuted artist who dared to chide the authorities, and I hope continued international protest and whatever else can be brought to bear pressure can obtain his swift release and return him to what he does best, making movies, documentaries, and "nonmovies".