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A worthy, but slow-moving Iranian tale

This is Not a Film

(Club, IFI, 75 minutes)


Directors: Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Jafar Panahi. Stars: Jafar Panahi.

Smuggled out of Iran on a USB stick hidden in a cake, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb's This Is Not A Film is a cross between a documentary, an amateur drama and a bitter political polemic.

Directed by Mirtahmasb, it tells the story of his friend Jafar Panahi, a noted filmmaker whose work has been deemed insufficiently respectful by the Iranian regime.

Panahi is facing a minimum of six years in prison and a 20-year ban from film-making for alleged crimes that include 'propaganda against the Islamic republic'.

In an act of covert civil disobedience, he invites Mirtahmasb over to his Tehran apartment to film him acting out the screenplay of a film he was planning. The screenplay tells the story of a teenage girl who's been accepted to university but is thwarted by her traditional parents. In Iran, all film scripts must be submitted to the government for approval, and Panahi was denied permission to make it. In This Is Not A Film we watch him act it out while describing the intolerable circumstances in which Iranian artists are obliged to operate.

It's absorbing but rather slow-moving. One feels for Panahi of course, but not enough to enjoy watching him eat his breakfast and put his trousers on and listen to dreary phone messages from his wife. But when you recall the risks that both he and Mirtahmasb are taking in doing this, you sit up and pay attention.

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