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Cannes 2011 #20

A Powerful Late Discovery


The disingenuously titled This is Not a Film, Jafar Panahi’s surprise entry to the festival, is by its very nature one of the most vital films in Cannes. Simply made but far from simple, it’s a radical cri de coeur from a filmmaker whose itch to express himself remains intact despite the imminent sentencing. As Panahi makes unambiguous in the film through candid cell phone conversations, he will likely go to jail. This devastating reality does not seem to interfere with Panahi’s capacity to lucidly reflect on his filmmaking process in relation to Iranian censorship, and to speak playfully and generously with the (few) people around him (his wife and daughter are curiously absent from the film, though they were in attendance at the official screening here in Cannes). The film reaches a crescendo in the final ten minutes or so, as Panahi follows his doorman on trash pickup routine. Unexpectedly cathartic, this sequence is a powerful testament to Panahi’s filmmaking dexterity, his capacity to find poetic substance in the most ordinary of situations. This is Not a Film is built from nothing, and yet every moment has a powerful urgency to it.

The way the film came to be in the festival is still unclear. At the screening, Thierry Fremaux mentioned that This is Not a Film was smuggled out of Iran using “high technology.” Fremaux’s comment turns out to be facetious. Afterwards I ran into a festival staffer who said that, in fact, the digital file containing the film was put in a pen drive that made it out of Iran’s borders in a remarkably – almost unbelievably – simple vessel : a loaf of bread.

More forthcoming.

par Gabe Klinger
vendredi 27 mai 2011

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