Daily Archives: Saturday, December 31, 2011

  • This is not a film Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtamash (Iran 2011)

    This is not a film Jafar Panahi,
    Mojtaba Mirtamash (Iran 2011)

    viewed IDFA 21 11 2011

    Why is this is not a film….because it’s a life…

    All the films I viewed at IDFA were mediated and or
    laminated productions. Mediated
    through cognitive design as products of
    a particular nature, using specific filmic structure shooting schedules and
    more or less planned shots to present a view point , an issue or to exercise a
    polemic. Laminated with voice over
    and editing techniques to ensure a multilayered moulding of the material to
    present a cogent statement about a subject.

    It seems perhaps impossible or very difficult as a conscious
    being to make reflective statements either in prose, media, film whatever without some pre-idea of
    form or putative statement, even if these are subject to continual flux. ‘This is not a film’ seems to be
    that rare entity: an unwitting product, a production made without specific form
    made almost as a documentary doodle. It does of course, and it was intended by
    it’s prime movers Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtamesh (MM) to show a situation:
    the situation of house arrest. A
    film shot as strips of action;
    filming that was carried out
    in defiance of the conditions of Jafar Panahi’s bail. A film that is little more than the
    tapes that comprise it, recorded without much planning and with only the most
    nebulous idea of what it should be.
    The editing looks to have been sparse, most of the shots are long
    sequences, that have only been topped and tailed. Perhaps this material would be used naively sent out as
    a diffuse statement about JP’s situation or incorporated into another more
    clearly planned film. That’s the
    way it appeared to me.

    But one sequence filmed as the last long shot changed
    everything. We have a situation: a
    famous Iranian filmmaker, known for his opposition to the regime is at home
    confined under house arrest. He is in the course of appealing against a 6 year
    prison sentence and a 20 year ban on leaving the country and making films. He mooches round his apartment
    recording himself on film: waiting.
    Finally his friend Mojtaba Mirtamash arrives: more filming; unplanned,
    undertaken almost as a means to relieve JP’s tedium of days. Underlying everything there is: the unsaid, the uncertain, the encircling and the threatening. Then without announcement quietly in
    one shot the final shot of the film all these forces reveal themselves as
    immanent and omnipresent.
    ‘This is not a film’ opens as a simple strip of actions. A series of events taking place in a
    situation whose outline we only dimly appreciate, then in this one and final
    shot we see that what first seemed inconsequential in this film actually
    encapsulates all the tragedy of a life.

    JP is not so much in a situation; rather he is the
    situation, JP is in a state of
    conditional being and the film is undifferentiated from this condition. Jafar
    films himself, on the phone to his lawyer; MM arrives and films him in the
    apartment as JP acts out an unrealised script; JP talks about film and shows a
    couple of shots from his output; his daughters pet iguana majestically stalks
    the living room. Then the time
    comes for MM to part. It is fireworks
    night in Tehran, and sporadically we have heard the crack of the
    gunpowder. JP is left alone by MM
    who leaves the camera running un the kitchen table.

    As MM leaves he talks to the man outside the front door who
    is a nephew of the concierge and says he’s standing in for him whilst the
    concierge attends a wedding in
    Esfahan. Camera still
    turning over, JP invites him in and talks to him as he collects the trash. Perhaps bored JP accompanies the guy,
    still filming same shot, to the lift as he collects the trash from different
    floors in the building. And at
    this point in the closeness intimacy and banality of the lift, there is a
    terrible realisation of what is happening….no edits no tricks just states of
    mind revealed in the transport of tape across the record head.

    Everything in this shot is unseen, the thoughts unsaid. Slowly inexorably there is the
    realisation that the stand-in concierge is a government spy. He is spying on JP
    and will report everything back to his controllers. The net of fate about JP has tightened. JP has been seen filming in defiance of
    the Court. He is doomed. The appeal, the one possible hope, slim anyway, is now
    dashed. The shot has the
    inexorable movement of destiny. There seems a point in the filming where JP
    realises exactly what is happening.
    His voice hesitates and his questions to the ‘concierge’ falter and
    stop. As if his mouth is drying
    up. It might be that JP realises from the top of the shot what is going on; but
    the feel from the interplay in the shot is of a gradual

    realisation by JP of the actual situation and its
    consequences. It is a slow motion
    awakening to the terrible nature of what is happening in the intimacy of the

    JP crammed in close physicality to his betrayer, close
    enough to smell his breath falls into the silence of the damned, falls into the

    After making the film ( said to have been smuggled out of Iran in a cake) MM was arrested and is currently in prison. JP’s appeal failed and he is in prison serving a six year stretch.

    So this is not a movie; it’s a life Jafar Pahani film and
    life interchangeably burnt into image.

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