"This Is Not a Film" will be making its way to the U.S. and U.K., despite the fact that it was never supposed to exist, much less leave Iran. Confused? Let's backtrack a bit.
This non-film business all began when acclaimed Iranian director Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison back in December, for allegedly "colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country's national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic." Or, in less harsh terms, for supporting the opposition movement during the 2009 election. He was also handed a 20-year filmmaking ban, and his rights to speak to the media and travel abroad were revoked. Panahi sidestepped one of these bans by filming "This Is Not a Film" while under house arrest. The documentary showed at the Toronto Film Festival, where Palisades Tartan picked up all U.S. and U.K. rights to it.
"This film is of undeniable importance today, especially amid the current Middle Eastern unrest," Palisades president-CEO Soumya Sriraman said in a written statement.
Boredom, it seems, was one motivator in making the 75-minute film, which follows a day in the life of Panahi as he talks over the phone with his family and lawyer and waits to learn news of his appeal. According to The Wrap, the documentary was shot in secret on an iPhone by his friend and co-director, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. When it made its premiere at the Cannes film festival, it was smuggled into France in a cake.
Panahi's work is highly acclaimed abroad, particularly in Europe. His first feature film, 1995's "The White Balloon," won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and his 2000 film "The Circle" took home the Golden Lion at Venice.
He also has a lot of important people in the film community backing him. Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn, among others, signed a petition asking for his release. Juliette Binoche has even been in tears over him. But it's unlikely words and tears will sway the Islamic Republic.
For now, watch Panahi drink tea with sugar cubes, take a mini-film of fireworks and plan his non-film film: