By Eva Lajoie

JafarPanahiIranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi gives viewers a look at a day in his personal life under house arrest in his new demonstration; This Is Not A Film (2011). Communicative of his experience with isolation and political repression, Panahi tries to maintain his creativity and self-expression while facing a prison sentence of six-years by the Iranian government. Panahi questions Iranian censorship in film by means of creating his own film which he cleverly claims is not a film at all. Drawing references from his previous works as well as outside perspectives of tenants living in the same building, he brings into perspective the kinds of cultural parameters set in Tehran, Iran.

This Is Not A Film is slow documentary cinema shot with two cameras; one of which belongs to his assistant-director and close friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, and the other, his own cell phone camera. Although Panahi has limited resources to deliver an important message to the public, his discussion about his own screenplays and censorship from the Iranian government, coincide well with events and people around him. Looking at the lives and aspirations of young individuals such as Hassan, a student studying in the arts, Panahi shows the effect creativity possesses against obstacles of oppression. The film is somewhat constructed as a narrative yet still possesses documentarian qualities such as hand-held point of view shots with personal dialogue, and interviews from Panahi himself. Yet the cuts between scenes and repositioning of the camera dissolve the barriers between documentary and narrative construction.

Beautifully framed sequences throughout the film, such as the view of Panahi’s balcony covered in flower beds, allows viewers to feel a sense of hope stemming from limitation; it is possible that even under restrictions from sources of power, there exists the possibility of inspiring through confined spaces. The self-reflexive qualities Panahi implements as a filmmaker also demonstrate the film-making process as a complex creative vehicle, which he shows can be used to communicate meaningful messages that pertain to restrictions of unknown realities. Those who value freedom of expression against powerful regimes would agree with the aesthetic and analytic qualities of Panahi’s film. This Is Not A Film highlights the powerful effect of creativity while bridging the political with the humorous, and counters limitation with liberation.