This is Not A Film (U)


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The Independent Culture

The title is a put-on, like the Magritte painting of a pipe.

This is a film, of sorts, but more pertinently it's a sly act of defiance from a film-maker who's slipped tyranny's gag. Jafar Panahi, the brilliant Iranian director of Offside and The Circle, was given a six-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban from film-making after he pledged his support to the opposition party in Iran's 2009 election. Under house arrest in his Tehran apartment, he is visited by friend and fellow director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who camcords the everyday routine of Panahi's life – discussing his case with a lawyer, on the phone to his family, trying to keep his daughter's pet iguana Igi under control. (Igi gets the big laughs here.)

A dark-browed, puckish fiftysomething, Panahi does not cut a rebellious figure; he mooches, he mopes, he muses on a situation that is self-evidently ridiculous. But dictatorships don't tend to see the funny side of free speech. A late encounter with an affable but distracted janitor reminds us of Panahi's ability to conjure human interest out of almost nothing. The film, smuggled out to France in a cake, was a late submission at Cannes last year, and a tasty treat it is.