In the past two years, the Iranian government has moved from merely banning films – most of which were allowed to be released internationally – to arresting actors and filmmakers, reported PressPlay. Jafar Panahi is the highest-profile director to suffer such treatment. A harsh legislative decision banned the Iranian director from filmmaking and travelling for 20 years.
In 2010, Jafar Panahi’s request to travel to the Berlin Film Festival was denied. He was arrested in March of that year, purportedly because he was making a film inspired by the protests following Iran’s 2009 election.
In May 2010, he was released on bail. In December, he was sentenced to six years in jail. Furthermore, he was banned from directing films, writing screenplays, giving interviews (even to Iranian media) and leaving the country for 20 years. He appealed the sentence, but lost it in October 2011.
Although Jafar Panahi is currently out of prison, he could be sent back at any moment. According to an article by Matt Levine, published on 19 June 2011, Jafar Panahi is currently in a torturous limbo called “the execution of the verdict,” during which he can be convicted and sent back to prison by the Iranian government at virtually any time.
Panahi’s latest film, the 2011 Iranian documentary ‘This Is Not A Film’, requires such background information. It was made after Panahi’s stay in a Tehran prison and during a mandated house arrest.
The film’s co-director, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, was arrested himself when he tried to attend the Toronto Film Festival in 2011.
In an article on PressPlay / IndieWire, published on 28 February 2012, Steven Erickson’s wrote about ‘This Is Not A Film’:
“Panahi’s first feature-length documentary, it’s a work of reduced means, to say the least. Several scenes were shot by Panahi with an iPhone. It wears its poverty as a badge of honor.”
In the article, Steven Erickson explains about the background of Jafar Panahi:
“Who would have thought that a little girl running away from a camera crew would lead Iranian director Jafar Panahi on a path culminating in his arrest and 20-year ban from filmmaking? That moment happened in his second film, The Mirror, which received a cursory American release in 1997. At the time, no one perceived it as a political statement, perhaps because it fit so snugly in the then-current Iranian vogue for neo-realist films about cute children. In retrospect, one can see that it was the start of Panahi’s string of films about rebellious girls and young women. His next film, The Circle, would make his overtly feminist politics a lot clearer.”
“In the unlikely event that Panahi’s travel ban is lifted, The Playlist has reported that he had been offered a deal with Sony and producer Scott Rudin to adapt Khaled Hosseini’s novel ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. So far, Panahi’s work seems so intimately tied to Iran, even if it’s highly critical of the country’s government, that it’s hard to imagine him working outside it. The government’s treatment of him suggests that even if he stays out of jail, he’s unlikely to be able to make a large-scale film there again. This Is Not A Film resembles a film made by the hero of Kafka’s The Trial,” wrote Steven Erickson of PressPlay.
Walker Art Magazine – 19 June 2012:
The Cameras Must Stay On: Censorship, Jafar Panahi, and This Is Not a Film
PressPlay / IndieWire – 28 February 2012:
REVIEW: The Trials of (Not) Making a Movie in THIS IS NOT A FILM
By Steven Erickson