Essentially, we are just watching Panahi while he's under house arrest awaiting the appeal ruling. His friend Mirtahmasb is operating the camera, although sometimes Panahi provides reverse angles with his iPhone. Panahi also figures that he's only banned from writing or directing a movie, so he decides to read and re-enact one of his banned scripts for us. Pointedly, it's about a young woman locked in her home by her parents to keep her from running off to university.
Yes, the layers of meaning are witty and provocative. Panahi stares across the city from his ninth-floor balcony, watching fireworks and trying to resist the urge to capture it on camera. As a true artist, storytelling is in his blood.
He also goes through a some of his own films, looking for key moments when non-professional actors surprised him by finding a truth he hadn't expected. Of course, this is echoed in Panahi's appearance here, as well as a hilarious sequence involving a young arts student who turns up collecting the rubbish.
Not to mention the neighbour who tries to get Panahi to babysit her yappy little dog. But then, he's already watching his son's pet iguana Igi, who nearly steals the show.
Along the way, Panahi also chats with Mirtahmasb about the dire state of filmmaking in Iran, with filmmakers under threat from the government for saying things that are prohibited. This is a political sentence, Mirtahmasb observes, neither legal nor judicial. As they talk, it's obvious that none of them has a clue what the government is looking for, or what it is offended by. It's also profoundly sad, as Panahi and Mirtahmasb mourn the silencing of important artists. Including themselves.
The film is so playful that it keeps us laughing all the way through, even as it pointedly reminds us that Iran is a progressive, modern country with a terrifyingly repressive government. And watching one day in Panahi's life tells us more than a more didactic documentary ever could. Really, this should be essential viewing for anyone interested in either cinema or global politics.
Run time: 75 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 29th February 2012
Box Office USA: $63.1k
Distributed by: Palisades Tartan
Production compaines: Jafar Panahi Film Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Fresh: 85 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.5 / 10
Director: Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
Producer: Jafar Panahi
Screenwriter: Jafar Panahi
Starring: Jafar Panahi as Himself
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