In Film Nist [2010]

 A few months ago, I read that this film exited oppressive Iran inside a USB drive hidden in a cake.  I knew right then and there that I had to see this film, if I can even call it that (the Persian title, In film nist, means “this is not a film”). Filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been placed on house arrest and is awaiting the resolution of his appeal of a six-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban on making movies. We see him deal, via telephone, with lawyers and other cineastes from the confines of his home. He’s been accused of “assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. This is a case where a creative mind must express itself, regardless of medium and means. For this purpose, he recruited documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who shot Panahi doing, well, anything. We watch him make phone calls, drink tea, chat with a neighbor but mostly we share his frustration at not being able to do what he clearly loves. Jafar is a strange, cranky man and a smart auteur. He reads from an unproduced script and stages what would’ve been his next film in his living room, in control of every tiny detail. That’s the only riveting sequence in an otherwise uneventful movie. Panahi knows this, though; that’s the whole point.