Persia, the land of my childhood dreams! Will you ever be a safe place to visit for foreigners and even your citizens? Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtamasb tell a tale of this land as it is today, not as it was in the times of legends and myths. The fabled city of Tehran is a place of confinement and compartmentalized lives. Panahi is a filmmaker who was sentenced to six years in prison and a 20-year ban from filmmaking. Yet, even that couldn’t silence him and Panahi made this movie which isn’t a movie. It opens today at the Pasadena Laemmle Playhouse 7.
I do not speak Farsi, so I don’t know just how the definitions and terminology work. Certainly, there’s a difference between a video and a movie. An instructional video for exercise or dance isn’t considered a movie. A commercial isn’t a movie. A vlog isn’t a movie.
So, lacking in our understanding of the exact terminology of the sentence and the intricacies of Farsi, let’s look at this as a vlog.
Panahi used an iPhone to video part of this (along with a DV camera) and in an ironic “Let them eat cake” and crow moment had the film smuggled into France in a cake. The result was a last-minute submission to Cannes last year.
Panahi didn’t do anything shocking by American standards. He openly supported the opposition party in Iran’s 2009 election and the victorious party was not forgiving.
We see him eating breakfast, feeding an enormous iguana, watching movies (even his own), getting food delivered and having phone conversations (including his lawyers appeals to his case) while under house arrest in a comfortable high rise. At one point, he attempts to read the script for the movie he dreams of making, but for what purpose? One wouldn’t need to make movies if a reading of a script by one person would suffice? Toward the end he follows a man who collects trash from the apartments.
Considering that his co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb was detained in Tehran at the airport while he was heading to the Toronto International Film Festival for the premiere of this work, the film represents just how precious freedom of speech and art really is. It is something we cannot afford to forget even if it means we must relinquish dreams of the past. The Persia of beauty and art will some day rise again, but it was never a place of great freedom–few places were in the time of myths and legends. I pray for a better Persia, a better Iran and I admire the people who, like Panahi and Mirtahmasb continue to push free speech and a world that listens to the opposition with the kind of respect all humans deserve.
1:20 – 3:30 – 5:40 – 7:50 – 10:00pm