Iranian director Jafar Panahi has won awards for his films The White Balloon, Offside, Crimson Gold and The Circle at festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Venice. Instead of embracing him, the Iranian government has placed Panahi under house arrest for six years and banned him from making films or giving interviews for 20. It’s his reward for supporting protesters against President Ahmadinejad’s purportedly legal reelection in 2009.
Working with Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Panahi has made This is not a Film, a brilliant protest against a repressive regime. It’s playing as part of the Masters at TIFF–but unlike any other film in that prestigious programme dedicated to “master filmmakers,” it’s being screened for free. TIFF definitely wants people to see the film.
The structure of This is not a Film is deceptively simple. We simply see a day in Panahi’s life. He and Mirtahmasb talk in the kitchen. Then, after Panahi chats on the phone with his lawyer, he talks to Mirtahmasb about creativity. Eventually, he sketches out a plan for a film in his living room. The day ends and Panahi remains in prison. Which he is still doing today.
Gus van Sant’s Restless is a tale of young love and death. The film will open at the end of September so a complete review must wait until then. Suffice it to say that Dennis Hopper’s son Henry makes an impressive debut as Enoch, a young man haunted by death. He’s more than matched by the brilliant Mia Wasikowska, who has already made a major impact with her performances as Jane Eyre and Alice (in Wonderland). Van Sant has always been able to get great performances from young actors and he shows here that his talent still burns brightly.
Wim Wenders has crafted a terrific homage to the great Pina Bausch, an exceptionally gifted and inventive choreographer. In Pina, Wenders uses 3-D to catch some of the elements of Bausch’s acclaimed Tanztheater Wuppertal. Wenders’ film will open in theatres in January, so this is merely a sketch of what this documentary contains. Using archival material from such productions as Rite of Spring and Café Muller, Wenders brings the film up-to-date by having Bausch’s dancers recall the Pina they grew to love and admire. Viewers of this film may learn to love her, too.