This Is Not a Film
Directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi
Released February 29, 2012
Among this year’s finalists for the Best Documentary Oscar is “This Is Not a Film,” an exploration of the mind of Jafar Panahi, an acclaimed Iranian filmmaker banned by his government from making films for the next twenty years. “This Is Not a Film” begins as a straightforward view of Panahi’s daily life, conducted as if no camera were present and quickly demonstrative of the energy he possesses that is so limited by his current predicament. Watching Panahi stage and read aloud a scene from his new screenplay paints an intimate portrait of this man and artist, and it’s clear that the sentence he has received has compelled him more than ever to make his voice heard. Seeing Panahi live vicariously through clips of past movies and through the idea that talking to Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, the film’s co-director, will enable him to once again have an impact, makes him into a sympathetic character and an affecting protagonist. The film’s style is highly unconventional, and its pacing, while purposeful, is also occasionally agonizing, as the film runs just seventy-five minutes but feels much longer. That, however, is the point, and “This Is Not a Film” succeeds most in being immensely thought-provoking.