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Entries in Jafar Panahi (6)


Review: 3 Faces

by Murtada Elfadl

In 3 Faces, the latest from Jafar Panahi (The Circle, Taxi) we are plunged right into the story as images of a young woman on a smart phone talking directly to the camera. She is announcing that her life's in jeopardy because her parents have  forbidden her from realizing her dream of acting. She then seemingly kills herself. For the next 90 minutes we follow the recipient of this message, Behnaz Jafari playing herself, a renowned Iranian actress and Panahi himself as they travel to a tiny village near the Turkish border to investigate.

There’s a mystery to solve. What happened to the young woman (Marziyeh Rezaei)? But also a deeper moral mystery; who are the inhabitants of her tiny village? Are they as nice and welcoming as they seem at first blush when Jafari and Panahi meet them? Deeper still is the moral quandary of a society that could drive a woman to take her own life just because she wanted to be actress...

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Chris Gives Thanks

Greetings from Chris! As the newest member of Team Experience, I'm so grateful to be able to share my point of view with you loyal readers in a space for our collective obsessions, unique observations, and global perspectives. Thank you all!

So, I am thankful for

...all of the vibrant and fully-realized women in minor roles that populate Brooklyn. Any one of them could have their own film, and I want Jessica Pare's sales manager to be my bestfriend/life coach.

..."This makes me wish they had been able to find my father's remains" in Trainwreck.

...Jason Robert Brown. We got The Last Five Years on big (but mostly VOD) screens this year, but if his masterpiece "Parade" was getting the big screen treatment, this list would be entirely comprised of that news.


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TIFF: Berlin and Venice Winners, "Taxi" and "Desde Allá"

Amir continues our coverage of TIFF '15 with reviews of this year's Golden Bear and Golden Lion winners.

The studio Celluloid Dreams recorded a remarkable success this year by winning the top prize at all of Europe’s big three festivals. The journey started in Berlin with the Golden Bear for Taxi, continued into Cannes with the Palme d'or for Dheepan (review) and ended just last week with Venice's Golden Lion for Venezuela’s Desde Allá. Jafar Panahi’s Taxi is the film that piqued my interest most, both as an Iranian, and as a fan of the auteur’s complex career, which I have followed in real time since his first film—a children’s movie—back in 1995.

Taxi is filmed digitally with incredibly modest means, borne of the director’s complicated situation with government authorities...

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We Can't Wait! #9: Taxi

Jafar Panahi poses as a taxi driver in "Taxi"Team Experience is counting down our 15 most anticipated for 2015. Here's Amir...

Who & What: Politically troubled Iranian auteur, Jafar Panahi, returns with his third film in four years. Any other director would be considered prolific with numbers like that, but consider that Panahi has managed it despite being under an official, though increasingly lenient, ban on filmmaking. His latest film, a realist comedy set in the confines of his car, stars him as a taxi driver whose interactions with his passengers form the narrative. It won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale, making him the only Iranian filmmaker with two top prizes from the big three festivals – the first was Venice’s Golden Lion for The Circle.

Why We’re Excited About It: Panahi has been cranking out masterpieces with such regularity that his inventive, powerful cinema is often taken for granted, especially since his political situation pushed discussions about his films to the background. His insightful, heartfelt and often humorous social studies are some of the best films of the past two decades and Taxi seems to be a return to his earlier interests, after a couple of self-reflexive experiments. The reviews from Berlinale showered the film with unanimous praise, and coming off the best film of his career, Closed Curtain, Panahi continues to work at his very peak. (Nick Davis discussed that film and Panahi’s earlier work with me at length on the Hello Cinema podcast.)   

What If It All Goes Wrong: Before the film had its premiere, my only fear was whether the car setup of the film would read as gimmicky or become tiresome. Reviews suggest those fears were baseless. Otherwise, I don’t see how this can go wrong.  

Jury Chairman Darren Aronofsky presented Jafar Panahi's crying niece with the Golden Bear in his absence.

When: Specialty arthouse distributor, Kino Lorber, has acquired the North American rights. Whether they want to build renewed momentum in the fall festival circuit or capitalize on the film’s Berlin win earlier in the summer isn’t yet clear.

previously in 'we can't wait'


Political Filmmakers & Cute Dogs: A Conversation with Nick Davis

Amir here, to share with you a podcast conversation about my favorite film of 2014. I first watched Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain at the Toronto Film Festival almost a full year ago. It was my last film of the festival and I debated long and hard if a late night slot after ten gruelling days of film-watching was a smart idea. Eventually I opted to give my all to the festival. Boy, am I glad I did.

Panahi has been slapped with a 6-year house arrest and a 20-year filmmaking ban in Iran on charges of political dissent but has since twice broken the ban in three years. His first attempt, This Is Not a Film, was a heated, frustrated attempt at circumventing the ban with a DIY documentary made in the confines of his living room, shot partly on an iPhone and reportedly snuck out of Iran on a USB stick in a cake! It made my top ten list in 2011 but Closed Curtain is one giant leap for Panahi toward imposing even more creative authority on his craft under the tightest of limitations.

In this meta-cinematic experiment, Panahi tells us the story of an author who hides himself and his incredibly adorable dog in a seaside villa in northern Iran to overcome a bad case of writer’s block. The world of the film becomes increasingly mysterious and the narrative structure shattered. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways, making the film a challenging experience and a very funny one, too.

I can’t sing its praises enough, which is why I decided to devote an entire episode of my podcast on Iranian films – Hello Cinema, co-hosted with Tina Hassannia – to this gem. We also had a special guest with whom The Film Experience readers are quite familiar. Nick Davis joined us to talk about the film, but given his familiarity with Panahi’s career and Iranian cinema, our conversation went in many unexpected, interesting directions. We talk about the Toronto International Film Festival, the world’s cutest pet, and everything else in between. As you're all aware, Nick is an impossibly charming speaker, so we left this conversation unedited, with all the fun bits included! Have a listen here, and if you’re interested in Iranian cinema, subscribe on iTunes. The September episode of the show will be about Iranian films playing at this year's edition of TIFF.


TIFF: Spending time with auteurs, illegal immigrants and jailed filmmakers

Hi everyone. Amir here, making my debut on The Film Experience with some festival news from the Great White North.

It was interesting – as it is every year - to see the usually quiet Toronto turn into a total frenzy and the usually laid-back Torontonians line up on the streets to see their favourite stars (which so far has included the likes of Bono, George Clooney, The Goz and Brad Pitt). The greying chilly weather didn’t stop the festivities on the first day and it was only fitting that my festival experience started on a happy note as well with the screening of Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre.

Le Havre

The film centres on an unlikely friendship between Idrissa, a teenage African illegal immigrant and Marcel, an elderly French shoe shiner in the titular harbour in France. As the police forces search around the city to find “the missing boy”, Marcel (Andre Wilms) hides Idrissa and tries to find a way to reconnect him with his mother in London.

Kaurismaki doesn’t deal so much with the socio-political implications of illegal immigration. Instead, he wraps the issue in layer after layer of dry humour and his particular brand of absurdist comedy. Aided by his impeccable comic timing and the terrific deadpan wit of his leading man Andre Wilms, Le Havre makes for a delightful two hours at the theatre.

This is not the type of film that you can read much into. Not to say that there’s no depth, but what Kaurismaki sets out to do is to charm, not to make a statement, and he succeeds at that. Even more charming than the film was Wilms himself, who showed up in person for a Q&A (having clearly indulged in generous amounts of alcohol backstage) and managed to equal his character’s deadpan line delivery with remarks like “French Rock ‘n Roll is like English wine” in reference to a lengthy scene with French rocker Little Bob.

Despite Wilms’ terrific performance, the highlight of the film for me was Jean-Pierre Darroussin’s hilarious turn as the sympathetic inspector Monet whose costume was right out of a Pink Panther movie and his inexpressive face was a perfect fit for this role. At the end of the day, I imagine this is a film everybody will like, but few will love. If you get a chance to see it though, don’t pass up.

This is not a Film

The second day’s experience was bitterer, though no less entertaining as I watched This is not a Film, the experimental film by Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi and documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Panahi is one of Iran’s most important filmmakers and a Venice Golden Lion winner who is now under house arrest for political reasons. Though his situation has stirred much controversy for the vague basis of his charges, he is still serving his 20 year ban – one that includes prohibitions on filmmaking, screenwriting, giving interviews and leaving Iran – and waiting to hear the final verdict on a proposed 6 year jail sentence. Under these extreme circumstances, Panahi sets out to expand his creative limits.

Mirtahmasb takes his camera inside Panahi’s house and films him as he reads and re-enacts his final screenplay in his living room, mapping out the film on his rug “Dogville style” and visualizing the story for the audience. For a society that is reserved about their personal lives to the point of impenetrability, This is not a Film is a major revelation. It’s unprecedented in Iran to see a documentary that goes so intimately inside someone’s house to show him have breakfast, take care of his pets or even get out of bed in their underwear and hang about the bedroom.

What, I imagine, is more appealing to a universal audience is that this film is one of the best made about the creative process, one that shows the passion filmmakers feel for their craft and the energy they put into it. Panahi tears up as he watches behind-the-scenes footage of his old films and even resorts to filming things with his iPhone just for the heck of it. That a ban as long as twenty years can’t stop him from planning a future film is only a testament to how much he loves cinema.

The film isn’t short on symbolic imagery either and while the final shot of the film might be too on-the-nose for some, the extensive intermittent footage of Igi, Panahi’s pet Iguana is subtler and more provocative. As the iguana moves around the house and overcomes endless obstacles on its way without ever giving up, it’s hard to miss the allegory of Panahi’s patience in the roughness of the Iguana’s scales and his restraint in its seemingly pointless quest around the house.