This is Not a Film
Back in 2010, filmmaker Jafar Panahi was sentenced for six years in prison and banned from making movies for the next twenty years. Despite being under house arrest, Panahi, with the help of his friend, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, filmed his daily life at home in Iran. Mirtahmasb filmed Panahi on a small digital video camera as Panahi discussed his process of filmmaking and analyzed scenes from the past films he had directed, i.e. The Circle, Crimson Gold, and Offside. If you haven't seen any of those films, this documentary will surely compel you to check them out. Panahi not only shares his thoughts and feels on his films, but also about art in general. From start to finish, he comes across as an intelligent, brave, curious and candid individual which makes him all the more engaging and poignant.
At its core, this documentary isn't really about Panahi; it's about the potency of art during time of oppression, and about how important it is to overcome one's fear and express his/her thoughts and feelings openly. The fact that Panahi achieved all of that while knowing that he could be sent to jail at any moment is feat unto itself. He even took more risks by having the film smuggled inside a cake from Iran to France where it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. As a Holocaust survivor once wisely stated, you can have every freedom and luxury taken away from you from oppressors, but, unless they kill you, they can't take away from you a truly useful, often underused tool: your brain. Panahi, fortunately, puts his own brain to great use both intellectually as well as creatively throughout the film.
It's also worth noting the few instances of dry humor, such as when Panahi let a pet iguana crawl on top of him while he sits on his couch surfing the web--not surprisingly, the Iranian government has censored many websites. There's also a little suspense when Panahi calls his lawyer to find out any updates on the status of his case.This is Not a Film ultimately has an abundance of insight, poignancy, truth and intrigue which makes for an experience that you won't forget anytime soon.