REVIEW: This Is Not a Film

10 01 2015

This Is Not a FilmWhen Americans complain about censorship, that’s usually a term being liberally applied by Harvey Weinstein while yelling at the MPAA to give him the rating he wants.  Be it “Blue Valentine,” “The King’s Speech,” “Bully,” or “Philomena,” the cry of censorship seems more like a PR maneuver in our country than an affront to human liberty.

Yet in “This Is Not a Film,” we get a glimpse at what actual censorship looks like in an authoritarian regime.  The voice of filmmaker Jafar Panahi has quite literally been squelched by the Iranian government.  After being convicted of propagandizing dissent again, he has been banned from making films for 30 years.

So rather than take it, Panahi creates a work that is, technically, not a film.  He brings in a cameraman to his apartment where he is confined to house arrest, and they go through the motions of the film he would be making.  Panahi describes what it would look like as he reads the script, staging and blocking various scenes alone in his living room.

The concept is a fascinating one – not to mention a courageous act of filmmaking.  “This Is Not a Film,” in its surface efforts to avoid being a film, actually becomes a powerful document of resistance that shows true exile.

Yet while it is unquestionably a bold premise, the execution leaves a little to be desired.  Perhaps Panahi would have been better crafting a short subject documentary out of “This Is Not a Film.”  The cleverness of the idea wears thin quickly and tries our patience as it moves forward with a rather dreary naturalism.

But, in a way, how it turned out is almost beside the point.  The most important aspect of “This Is Not a Film” is the simple fact that it was made.  C+2stars

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