At the weekend I saw Jafar Panahi’s This is not a Film. Panahi is under house arrest in Tehran having been convicted of the political crime of making films critical of the state. He has been forbidden from making films for 20 years, and is under threat of going to prison for 6 years. While going through an appeal process he is under house arrest.
Still wanting to make films, but forbidden from doing so, he invited a cinematographer friend to visit several times in February this year; his friend films Panahi, or leaves his camera recording on the kitchen table. Panahi tells stories, goes about a quite restricted daily life, and at one point acts out a screenplay he’s written but which will never be filmed. Because he’s not allowed to make films, he calls the film ‘This is not a Film’. When he tells his cinematographer friend to ‘cut’, he’s reminded that he can’t cut as he’s not making a film.
Anyway. At one point in the film he talks us through a sequence from his film The Mirror. A 5 year old girl plays a character whose mother has failed to show up at school to take her home. She has to travel through the city on a bus on her own. There’s a clip below. In the second clip, the actor playing the girl refuses to continue acting. She takes off the veil, and a fake plaster cast she’s wearing on her arm, and steps right out of the fiction. Panahi keeps the sequence in the film – an interruption of the real in the fiction.
See also some background on Panahi and the film Crimson Gold from 2003.