“This Is Not a Film” Is a Powerful Political Documentary

Not a Film

The New York Film Festival is proud to present the latest work by Jafar Panahi, the Iranian auteur known for films such as Crimson Gold (NYFF '03) and Offside (NYFF '06).

Documentaries are rarely so urgent; in the self-reflective style of much great Iranian cinema, the making of This Is Not a Film is, in a way, its own subject. It chronicles a day in the director’s house arrest as he awaits the appeal of his six-year prison sentence. In addition to possible incarceration, Panahi is banned from making films, talking to the press, and traveling out of the country for 20 years. The director participated in the 2009 anti-government protests in Iran and, in 2010, was arrested for conspiracy and spreading propaganda against the regime. His imprisonment is only one of the more famous examples of Iran’s continuing repression of its own artists and thinkers, not to mention more ordinary dissidents.

This Is Not a Film was made with great risk; its co-director, Mojtaba Mir Tahmaseb, was arrested last month and the film itself (despite its title) is a potential violation of the ban. The film comes to America on the heels of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s latest appearance at the UN General Assembly in September, which caused walkouts at his remarks about 9/11, among other things. Relations between Iran and the United States continue to sour: this week, the US accused the Iranian government of conspiring to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, which Iran claims is an attempt to deflect attention from Occupy Wall Street.

Works such as This Is Not A Film and NYFF’s other Iranian entry, A Separation, present the reality of life in Iran to the rest of the world. Steve Dollar writes in The Wall Street Journal that “the work is both a passionate protest and a nuanced intellectual discourse on politics, aesthetics and human nature,” in an article on the political documentaries at NYFF. Richard Brody talks about the importance of the non-film’s iPhone sequence – “the most extraordinary sequence in this extraordinary film” – in a post for the New Yorker. In Capital New York, Sheila O’Malley heralds This Is Not a Film as “one of the most powerful political films ever made.”

For more about the film’s background and critical reception, read our NYFF Spotlight. Tickets are available online and at the Alice Tully Hall box office for the film’s only screening on October 13 at 6:00pm.

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