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Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb

This clandestine documentary, shot partially on an iPhone and smuggled into France in a cake for a last-minute submission to Cannes, depicts the day-to-day life of acclaimed director Jafar Panahi (Off... read more read more...side, The Circle) during his house arrest in his Tehran apartment. While appealing his sentence - six years in prison and a 20 year ban from filmmaking - Panahi is seen talking to his family and lawyer on the phone, discussing his plight with Mirtahmasb and reflecting on the meaning of the art of filmmaking. -- (C) Palisades Tartan

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69% liked it

8,584 ratings


98% liked it

87 critics

Unrated, 1 hr. 15 min.

Directed by: Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb

Release Date: February 29, 2012

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DVD Release Date: February 26, 2013

Stats: 211 reviews


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Flixster Reviews (211)

  • July 25, 2013
    This is not a Film is not a film. The clue is in the title. It is however more important than that, it is an essay on film making and expression and it is a political reaction to oppression. It may seem like a man pottering around his flat thinking things up and talking to his la... read morewyer but it is so much more than that. It's mundane content is kind of the point. He risked his life making this film, something that us in the West find hard to comprehend or appreciate. It's not art, it's not entertainment, it's a tiny revolution. It should be watched, it's hard to enjoy due to the subject matter and because it's ordinary but the truth is that it is actually extraordinary and should be acknowledged.
  • July 18, 2013
    This Is Not a Film, is a scream of help.
  • fb733768972
    March 13, 2013
    "This is Not a Film" follows a filmmaker (Jafar Panahi) through his house after he has been released from prison, not being able to write, direct, or produce a film while he is on house arrest. It is extremely interesting and enlightening to see a man with such loss, still being ... read moreable to enjoy whatever is left of his life. Reflecting back on his past films while trying to explain a film idea that he will never get the chance to make, I was 100% devoted to the realism of this "film." It captivated me in many ways and showed everything that needed to be shown from a story like this. This is partial documentary and partial found-footage film, and it works brilliantly in both aspects. Would I watch it again? No, but I admire the hell out of it!
  • March 7, 2012
    It certainly is not a film; it's a rip-off. Charging $13 for "This Is Not a Film," a one-hour short almost devoid of content, is highway robbery. This is one of the few times in my life when I felt the theater owed me a refund. I really resented being charged $13 for this.

    I w... read moreas excited when I first heard about this "film," and I love the basic idea for the project. Jafar Panahi, the Iranian filmmaker who has been put under house arrest and prohibited from making films, records the various goings-on in his Teheran apartment using his iPhone. It sounded to me like a great testament to human creativity.

    You can steal a filmmaker's camera and lock him up, but he will find a way to create! I also love how 21st-century technology undercuts fascist governments at every turn.

    I couldn't wait to see what Panahi would have to say from the confines of his house arrest. What a shock to learn that he has almost nothing to say. If you're going to work so hard to create clandestine footage and smuggle it out of Iran, at least have something to say!

    All we see is Panahi puttering about the house, feeding his pet iguana, and answering the phone! We also watch him help the building's superintendent take out the trash. All the while we hear the sound of fireworks going off in the background, as it's some kind of holiday in the country. Initially it sounded like gunfire. But no, just fireworks.

    After an hour, it's over. This is hardly a testament to human creativity. It's an attempt to milk cash out of the cinephiles around the world who have championed Panahi's cause. This will probably top my Worst of 2012 List.
  • March 11, 2012
    This is as a fascinating bit of minimalism as there has been in quite a long time, not only for its insights into the state of censorship in Iran(from what I can infer, Jafar Panahi's arrest sounds like something out of "Hawaii 5-0,") but for its symbolism in capturing a day in t... read morehe life of Jafar Panahi, trapped inside waiting for loved ones to return on New Year's Day with fireworks going off just outside. So it may come as no surprise that the only identifiable movie on his DVD rack is "Buried" starring Ryan Reynolds.

    In all honesty, I don't think 'This is Not a Film' was really meant to be a title in a conventional sense. Rather, it is meant to possibly to work around the Iranian authorities' sentencing Panahi to six years of prison and 20 years without directing, writing a film or giving interviews.(His lawyer thinks there is a chance he could have the prohibitions thrown out and his sentence reduced but he is still going to jail.) All of which he bares up under with humor and fatalism.

    So, that only leaves him to talk about his old films in pointing out how little control he has had over his amateur casts in the past. To accentuate this, his pet iguana(which is bigger than most cars, by the way) takes center stage at times. So, he stages scenes from what would have been his latest film about a young woman who wants to attend university in Tehran over her traditional parents' wishes.

    This all comes about when Mojtaba Mirtahmasb conceives of a behind the scenes series on banned directors.(Another way of looking at it, is as they put it, when hairdressers get bored, they do each others' hair.) Even though Panahi does not want to appeal to other Iranian directions which might get them in trouble also, Mirtahmasb also is currently in hot water, too. And finally, the real reason for this being made, is as Panahi puts it, to petition for international pressure, or in other words, us.
  • fb721890245
    June 13, 2013
    True, it isn't a film...and yet it is. Jafar Panahi, under house arrest, shoots scenes with a cameraman that are seemingly about the mundane life of being locked up in an apartment but turn into something that you can't quite look away from. From a USB key in a cake to you.
  • September 18, 2012
    What do you think will happen when you put a prolific filmmaker under house arrest? "This Is Not a Film", a sad portrait of how freedom of expression can sometimes be looked upon as nothing short of a political transgression, answers that question with both simplicity and ingenui... read morety courtesy of director Jafar Panahi, whose socially realistic films have brought him a tad too close to the fire.

    Shot entirely inside his apartment using only one professional camera (and Panahi's camera phone), the film chronicles his house imprisonment and how boredom and frustration slowly plague his every waking day. For filmmakers and even aspiring ones like me, it's a truly depressing thing to behold because it shows someone like Panahi, a director at the peak of expressive strengths, suddenly pulled down to a creative standstill.

    With one of his restrictions being to carry a video camera and record things with it, Panahi's body is literally trapped and his mind figuratively shackled. For a filmmaker, nothing is more painful than that yet Jafar Panahi, with a demeanor that is surprisingly exuberant and pure even amid his situation, has thought of something: If it's illegal for him to tell a story through film, then maybe he can tell a story by way of spoken words, a hanging screenplay, and some masking tape.

    Acting and moving as if always out of breath, Panahi, in relative detail and great imagination, was able to make us and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (the man holding the camera) visualize the set (by putting tapes on the floor to serve as the various settings' walls and dimensions), the preferred shots (by description) and the emotional context of each and every scene that comprise the aforementioned screenplay that he is supposed to direct into a feature film.

    In these moments, one can really feel and see how Panahi suddenly transforms from a silently frustrated political prisoner into a spirited man of both grace and energy. To see him very eager to tell a story, even in the most limiting of conditions, is truly encouraging yet at the same time also saddening. Why must a country like Iran reach a point where its filmmakers, who all got something to say that's worth listening to, are prevented to do what they do best? And does a video camera impose the same kind of risk to Iranian authorities in much the same way a high-powered gun does? Or is it just the fact that their government is afraid of it the same way an authoritarian state is wary of rightful revolutionaries?

    "This Is Not a Film", although a piece of work that's solely focused on Panahi's predicament, is also a subtly incising political commentary about the crumbling state of Iranian cinema. With a title that seems to inform both the audience and authorities in advance, as if in cautious defense, that 'this is not a film', ironically, it's still a thoroughly radical work. Smuggled out of Iran inside a cake so that it may reach a wider audience, "This Is Not a Film", both in content and context, is a work not just of political defiance but also of cinematic resilience.
  • fb100004905157511
    January 4, 2014
    A late addition to the Cannes 2011 programme after being smuggled into France inside a cake, Iranian director Jafar Panahi's "This is Not a Film" (2011) is by no means your average political documentary. The 75-minute piece, shot partially on an iPhone, captures the day-to-day li... read morefe of Panahi during a state-imposed house arrest in his Tehran apartment as he appeals a six year prison sentence and 20 year filmmaking ban for his opposition to the 2011 Iranian elections.

    Here in the Western world, our access to information, democratic governments, and human rights are taken for granted. Panahi and Mirtahmasb are putting their lives on the line to tell the stories they feel they must tell, in the hope that, one day, their nation will be able to have the same sort of pro-democratic freedom as the rest of us. Gripping entertainment. Little by little "This Is Not a Film" leads to a final scene of overwhelming power. Anyone interested in cinema and/or Iran owes it to themselves to become familiar with this "not" film.
  • November 21, 2012
    Thank you William D. for your courage to 'dissent' from most other reviews. Without dismissing anyone, one has to admit that very often people pretend to like or 'appreciate' this so-called art, so that they are seen as sofisticated. It must be the fact that I've seen too many in... read moretelectual snobs around frequenting indie theatres and museums (and let's not forget opera...). Not to dismiss people who *genuinely* like these things, but they are usually not bragging around about it. Short of uploading iPhone videos to YouTube (like the ones who started the Arab Spring), this kind of 'art' is unlikely to change anything...

Critic Reviews

Stanley Kauffmann
June 18, 2013
Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

This film is unique in a dreadful way: what happens on screen would not be particularly interesting without the facts surrounding its making. Full Review

Tom Charity
January 7, 2013
Tom Charity,

Not a conventional film, certainly, but a powerful and important statement. Full Review

Kyle Smith
January 7, 2013
Kyle Smith, New York Post

There is courage and cheekiness here. What there is not is a story, or much insight or even anger; anyone expecting an indictment of Iran will be sorely disappointed. Full Review

Michael Phillips
January 7, 2013
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Truly and defiantly extraordinary in its own quiet way. Full Review

J. R. Jones
January 7, 2013
J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader

This may not be a film, but it's a moving statement of defiance and despair. Full Review

Ann Hornaday
May 18, 2012
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

It's a cry from the heart of an artist compelled to create, tell stories and respond to hostile, confounding realities. Full Review

Ty Burr
May 3, 2012
Ty Burr, Boston Globe

In short, "This Is Not a Film" is the world within an apartment, and it is quietly devastating. Full Review

Tom Keogh
April 12, 2012
Tom Keogh, Seattle Times

The more "This Is Not a Film" underscores the cruel containment of a great artist, the more we actually become aware - very indirectly, in a very Panahi fashion - of a city in chaos outside, with soun... Full Review

Bill Goodykoontz
April 12, 2012
Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

It's a statement about courage, a poke in the eye of political oppression. Full Review

Roger Ebert
April 12, 2012
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

I would like to show "This Is Not a Film" to those in the United States who are in favor of a close union of church and state. Full Review

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This Is Not a Film Trivia

  • "Do not speak to me of rules. This is war! This is not a game of cricket!" Which war film?  Answer »
  • Though this is not a quote, which film would the following be relevant for: The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles per hour, beating its wings 7-9 times per second rather than 43. And a 5 ounce bird cannot carry a one pound coconut.  Answer »
  • What film does this quote come from? "Aristotle was not Belgian, the principle of Buddhism is not "every man for himself", and the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up."  Answer »
  • What film has this quote : It is not a qustion of what a SPARTAN SHOULD do, nor a husband ,nor a king, instead ask yourself my dearest love ,what should a free man do ?  Answer »

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