NEW YORK TIMES: This Is Not A Film Review

Jafar Panahi turns a highly personal video diary into a charged and expansive historical narrative. How did Mr. Panahi do this? I'm at a bit of a loss to explain, to tell you the truth, since my job is to review movies, and this, obviously, is something different: a masterpiece in a form that does not yet exist.
But far from turning into a gimmick, the resulting This Is Not A Film is a deeply touching, beautifully told (and shot) story of a man who displays the kind of courage only bestowed upon those who confront adversity head-on because of their own strong beliefs, but also the kind of human vulnerability that has made him the cinematic genius that is Jafar Panahi.
It's becoming clear that the blossoming of Iranian cinema, which has been going on now for at least 20 years, is too strong a force for the government censors to contain. The triumph of This Is Not a Film is not only an artistic one—the very existence of this movie is a gift. No wonder it came to us in a cake.
This Is Not A Film is an at times an unbearably honest portrait of the artist as both tyrant and victim of tyranny. For in creating there is a poetic brutality, a necessary cruelty from which he never shies away. This Is Not a Film is an astonishing work. It is a film. It is cinema. It is essential.
Panahi's "effort-that-isn't-a-film" is worth seeing not just because his situation deserves to be remembered, but also as a reminder of the social complexities of Iran, and the courage and intellectual sophistication of so many of its citizens.
This Is Not A Film is a moving, altogether original film that weaves together a series of metaphors and draws us into the life of a courageous man. It's a subtle contribution to the literature of oppression, opposition and prison and to the never-ending discussion of art and its relationship to life.
The fireworks and bonfires glimpsed through windows and a doorway and the near-constant booms and sirens on the soundtrack all emphasize Panahi's isolation from everyday life and his practiced profession. The new year, and the possibility of rebirth it represents for most of us, becomes a specter of everything Panahi is locked away from.
With its stripped-down aesthetic, it finds poetry in the mundane and even boring details of daily life. And it's an inspiring must-see for anyone who feels the urgent need to create something beautiful and meaningful, no matter the cost.
LA TIMES: THIS IS NOT A FILM - Depending on your point of view, "This Is Not a Film" both is and isn't a film. What it is for sure is the only kind of film its co-director Jafar Panahi can make for now. Because even when this director is "not making a film," he is creating situations that we won't forget.
This Is Not a Film, which was smuggled out of Iran in a USB drive hidden in a birthday cake so it could be shown at Cannes, is indeed a major work of art, an important document of government repression of free speech as well as a fascinating examination of one man's intense dedication to his art and the creative process.
THIS IS NOT A FILM: THEATRICAL REVIEW - But that's about as close as I can get to putting Panahi and Mirtahmasb's accomplishment into words. This is something you, both as film lover and defender of great art, need to see. It might not be a film, but I have the strong suspicion it's still a masterpiece.
AN EXTRAORDINARY TESTAMENT FROM IRAN'S MOST PERSECUTED FILMMAKER - Instead, this non-film is an ambiguous statement from a man persecuted by a society in crisis. In its own way it's an inspiring testament of courage and sacrifice and even patriotism, as hackneyed as all of that may sound.
Jamsheed Akrami and Godfrey Cheshire Discuss Jafar Panahi's 'This Is Not A Film' - "hether we'll hear again from Panahi in the near future depends on the political climate in Iran. The country is breathing heavily in anticipation of some sort of crisis. His fate can change at any time.
THIS IS NOT A FILM: REVIEW - Panahi and Mirtahmasb's most stunning achievment is offering a portrayal of a unique, poetic individual of international renown surviving within the system without losing sight of the reality that he is, indeed, as perceptible to constraints as any other citizen of his country.
'THIS IS NOT A FILM,' NOT WHEN TEHRAN SAYS IT CAN'T BE - Jafar Panahi's palpable anguish at not being able to start work on a story that is camera-ready in his head — "If we can tell a film, why make a film?" he fumes — may break your heart...
THE 26 BEST FILMS OF 2011 - Two yet-unreleased films, shown here only at festivals and special screenings, deserve special mention for their passionate engagement with the filmmakers' immediate and difficult circumstances and with the political pressures of their time and place...
FILM COMMENT'S BEST UNRELEASED FILMS OF 2011 - Topping the list is This is Not a Film, Iranian director Jafar Panahi's intimate and disarmingly hilarious portrait of his house arrest by Iranian authorities, who prosecuted him for vaguely defined crimes against the state...
JAFAR PANAHI'S COMPELLING 'THIS IS NOT A FILM' - Will it save Panahi additional trouble if we don't define the defiant result (which was smuggled out of Iran inside a cake)? Call it what you will. It's irrefutably art, and undeniably vital.
THIS IS NOT A FILM: REVIEW - "This Is Not A Film" masterfully shows Iranians that are full of the same passions, concerns and desires as the rest of the world—an incredibly important accomplishment now that the drumbeat to war grows louder each day.
THIS IS NOT A FILM: REVIEW - "This Is Not A Film" is a gorgeously rich, moving work that is a warning flag of what will be lost if filmmakers like Panahi and Mirtahmasb are silenced...
THIS IS NOT A FILM REVIEW: A PORTRAIT IN COURAGE - The film is terrific at capturing the drip-drip-drip of what amounts to, basically, Panahi's home imprisonment.
THIS IS NOT A FILM: REVIEW - "This Is Not a Film" is so technically modest that it almost isn't a film. Yet in its simplicity it's as direct as a laser beam, underscoring why Panahi is considered so dangerous by his country's government: The difference between just looking and really seeing is second nature to him.
TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL: JAFAR PANAHI'S THIS IS NOT A FILM - As much as it's a political statement, an act of defiance, a master class in one auteur's body of work and process, and a document of a life unseen, it's also, maybe most miraculously, a never-a-dull-moment entertainment...
THE NEW YORKER: THIS IS NOT A FILM REVIEW - Panahi depicts his plight with warm, self-deprecating humor but he presents clips from his films with a testamentary seriousness, and shows a DVD box on a shelf that cries out with the grim truth of his situation: "Buried."
NYFF 2011: REVIEW - Rather than allowing the cruel reality of the situation to hover over the whole proceeding, "This is Not a Film" follows in the footsteps of all Panahi's other films that have taken on the imperiousness of the government by illuminating the humanity of its citizenry.
SLANT: THIS IS NOT A FILM - What he's achieved here is a total, true auteurism, a reclamation for political means of a mode of thinking that has long been debased for commercial measures. The extent to which this was scripted is irrelevant: Like all great cinema, it is beyond belief.
SIGHT & SOUND: BEST FILMS OF 2011 - Panahi uses the camera, trained on himself more or less throughout the movie, as a means of liberation. At once utterly specific in its focus and wholly universal in its relevance, it's perhaps the bravest and most important home movie ever made.
NEW YORK TIMES ARTS BEAT: Q & A WITH MOJTABA MIRTAHMASB - "This Is Not a Film" may be the ultimate underground movie: made for 3200 euros, shot on digital video (and, at one point, an iPhone) and smuggled to France on a USB thumb drive that was hidden inside a cake.