AKA: In Film Nist
Year Released: 2011
Distributor: Palisades Tartan
Running Time: 76 Minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Taxi (Jafar Panahi film)
-The only reason why this film saw the light of day was because Jafar Panahi put a USB drive of the footage inside a cake that was mailed to the Cannes Film Festival. Dead Serious.
-This Is Not A Film was filmed with only two cameras. A regular movie camera and an iPhone camera.
You can’t just film whatever and whenever you want around the world. One filmmaker by the name of Jafar Panahi knew this too well and was punished for the ultimate crime against humanity in his home country of Iran: Making movies that dared to shed light to human rights issues with his typical neo-realistic films. His punishment was house arrest and a twenty-year ban on films.
This (not-) film was my first exposure to Panahi’s work. I watched this on a whim on Netflix out of some recommended movies to check it out and I was glad I did. This docudrama shows the ramifications of his punishment as he’s on the phone with a lawyer to appeal his sentence, not being able to leave his home in Tehran, and talking about potential projects that may have been ruined by his sentence. It was fascinating seeing his reactions to his world at his lowest at the time, but he had a quiet sense of fear and frustration even when he tried to enthusiastically talk about his movies and ideologies for film making. It really comes to a head where he talks about a soon-to-be canceled project where he puts a bunch of tape to make a theoretical set on how that movie would work while talking about plot details and the cinematography. Jafar Panahi gets fed up later on when he says the most famous line from this docudrama: “If we can tell a film, then why make a film?”
This project was made with a mix of defiance and some paranoia. It was like a dying person filming their last few moments of life, but instead of him worrying about his physical death, it’s an artistic death of his film career making movies that no one else dared to make in Iran. It was a video diary about the downcast parts in that moment of life as well as an insight to his philosophy on film making no matter how interesting or how mundane it all looked. What made his thoughts about filming so interesting were his thoughts on how directors can only do so much and how auxiliary elements can be the director of sorts. When he shows a scene from his movie Crimson Gold, he talked about how the actor who portrayed the main character didn’t do exactly what the script said with his facial expressions that were ad-libbed yet worked in that scenes. Another scene he mentioned was a segment in his movie The Circle where a woman is seen running and the scenery looked like it was enclosing in on her without any effects or CGI. He mentioned that the scenery in that sense “directed” what should happen in that film.
Now, This Is Not A Film isn’t for everyone though. There are a few parts that do get boring despite it’s short length. Not to mention the low-budget filming may turn off some people who’ve been spoiled by Hollywood productions. However, that was out of necessity and not because of aesthetics and this came from a director who constantly uses amateur actors in his other projects and has been hugely influenced by neo-realism and cinema verite films. This makes Paranormal Activity look like a James Cameron movie by comparison except This Is Not A Film has way more depth than either.
I’m glad I saw this docudrama film. It made me think about censorship in art and to learn more about the cultural aspect of film. This Is Not A Film would be a great conversation starter about the oppression of artists and how their messages need to be conveyed. Highly recommended.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re really into filmography
Subtract 2-3 points if you’re not into lower-budget productions
-Great documentary storytelling
-Fantastic insight into Jafar Panahi’s film philosophy
-Shows, and rarely tells the oppression Jafar Panahi faced
-Mundane at times intentionally or not
-The ending may seem random
-Some scenes are tailor made for people who like cinema theories
Final Score: 9/10 points
Content Warnings: With the exception of the occasional swear word, there really aren’t a lot of offensive things in This Is Not A Film. Most children (and some adults) would be bored if they saw this movie since it isn’t some glossy action packed film. Not to mention some people wouldn’t get the cultural things involved. I would recommend this for open-minded people or fans of documentaries though.
Photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.