This Is Not A Film (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, 2011). The amount of humor in Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb’s hybrid effort is surprising, especially in light of the serious and well-publicized censure of Panahi’s filmmaking by Iranian authorities. But perhaps there is nothing left to do but laugh in the face of such shamefully ridiculous authoritarianism? “Laughing or crying, you know it’s the same release,” Joni Mitchell notes.
This self-reflexive “documentary” reveals Panahi in comfortable if restless house arrest awaiting news of his appeal. It observes how near to impossible it is to keep a visionary from expressing his vision, in whatever truncated or plebian or disposable a form as necessary. Forbidden to make a film for decades, Panahi nonetheless passes the time in what-if scenarios graphed out with masking tape on the living room rug. His tussles with Mirtahmasb over who’s directing who are amusing. Mickey the dog nearly steals the show. But when Panahi feels emboldened to take his camera down to the street level, the fires of chaos remind the viewer that–for as much humor as this film affords–what is happening in Iran is no laughing matter.