This is not a Film
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This is not a Film

A fittingly masterful exercise in creation under duress.

Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi (Iran, Masters)

Thursday, September 8, 9:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)

Friday, September 9, 4:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 King Street West)

“They’re not going to acquit you,” Jafar Panahi’s lawyer tells him in this non-film. The decision, she notes, is “100 per cent political.” Facing a 20 year filmmaking ban and a six year prison sentence for creating anti-state “propaganda,” Panahi is stuck in his apartment complex. He invites friend and documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb over to film him as he walks through a film he wants to make, which was rejected by Iran’s culture ministry. If Panahi is the noble Polanski, then his would-be film is his Ghost Writer. The story of an Iranian girl hoping to study the arts at university who is locked in her home by her parents, Panahi’s planned film dovetails appropriately with his own circumstances.

Tracing out the sets using masking tape, meticulously explaining every shot, and briskly reading through the script, Panahi’s exercise is a clever, frequently transcendant lesson in colouring within the (very, very narrow) lines. Frustrated with his ability to tell a film but not make a film, This is not a Film shifts to Panahi’s conversations with Mirtahmasb, who stresses the importance of documenting his unique situation. There’s a lot of talking at the audience, but being as at the time of shooting there was no planned audience, this didacticism works powerfully, making Panahi seem at once present and achingly, frustratingly isolated.