Iran. December, 2010. Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is placed under house arrest after the repressive Iranian regime charges him with alleged crimes against national security. His response? To covertly film his straitened circumstances using only a cameraphone and a digital video camera.
If the story behind this Iranian documentary is more urgently compelling than the film itself, that’s hardly surprising. Appealing a six-year prison sentence (and 20-year ban from filmmaking) for his political views, acclaimed Iranian director Panahi (Offside, The Circle) is filmed under house arrest, describing the unmade film his country’s oppressive regime wouldn’t let him pursue. Shot partly on an iPhone, the film is then smuggled out of Iran (in a cake) to the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a laudable cause, supported by such film luminaries as the Coen brothers, Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg and, most vocally, Juliette Binoche and Isabella Rossellini. But stripped of context, the film drags.
A deeply courageous, and, in the circumstance, astonishing piece of filmmaking. It's slow going at times but considering the guerrilla techniques used to make it, and the fact that it was smuggled out of Iran in a cake, it's well tracking down in the cinema (or bakery).