Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jafar Panahi's Taxi", satirical meta-documentary from Iran by banned filmmaker

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” (or “Taxi Tehran”, 2015), got filmed despite the director’s formal ban by the Iranian government from shooting films and traveling, and his niece (Hana Saeidi) had to accept an award for him at the Berlin Film Festival. And, no, this film is not as menacing as Martin Scorsese's classic "Taxi Driver". 

Jafar drives around Tehran and picks up and converses with passengers, whom he seems to have some "background-story" connection with.  Gradually, the film progresses toward some gumshoeing (after turning down progressively narrower streets) at a major monument in Tehran at the end, when the screen will go blank.

The first  major pickup is a man struck by a car, going to a hospital, and his wailing wife.  Afterwards he picks up his own niece, who talks about what kind of filmmaking is actually permitted by her “teacher” as she shoots video.   Gradually we learn more about Jafar’s own identity as a filmmaker, and the idea that the government wants to control it for ideological purposes (the way the Soviets wanted to control classical music).  No wonder he makes a living as a cab driver.  Soon he picks up a female lawyer who has been disbarred. She sounds so jolly despite her own catastrophes.

The characters seem relatively unconcerned about the intrusive government, and in some ways city life looks amazingly normal.  Most of the film was shot necessarily in inconspicuous places, away from major landmarks.  Most of the buildings are unremarkable, with low-rise apartments common.   Small businesses flourished everywhere, just as in western cities.  But many townhomes seem to be gated separately.

Toronto Film Festival site is here (Kono Lorber is the theatrical distributor). 

I saw this at the Landmark E Street before a fair Sunday afternoon audience.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of a tax in Tehran by Orijentolog under Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 License.

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