Iranian director Jafar Panahi uses his cellphone to film himself having breakfast in his high-rise apartment. A second camera records his morning at home. When his lawyer phones, we understand that he is under house-arrest and awaiting a ruling on his sentencing. Facing a 20-year ban on filmmaking, he invites his good friend Mirtahmasb over to operate the camera. Panahi revisits some of his earlier films, talks about an unrealized screenplay, and interacts with some of the residents of his building. The question which hangs over the proceedings: will this genius ever make another feature film?
One of the great directors of the Iranian New Wave, Panahi was arrested in 2010 for insubordination under the Ahmadinejad regime. “This Is Not a Film,” a kind of video diary from Panahi, was smuggled out of Iran on a flash drive and shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. But don’t balk at the basic format — the simplicity of the “home movie” format belies its deeper intent. Panahi explores his driving need to make films, implicitly critiquing a system that stifles the creation of art. In a movie limited by its imposed constraints yet expansive in its aim, Panahi captures Iranian life and society in all its contradictions.