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Jafar Panahi (#110 of 41)

Cannes Film Festival 2018 Winner Predictions

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Cannes Film Festival 2018: Winner Predictions
Cannes Film Festival 2018: Winner Predictions

Between Cate Blanchett being appointed to head the largely female jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the much-publicized march of 82 women down the red carpet at the start of the festival (representing the mere 82 women directors in 71 years who’ve competed for the Palme d’Or), many have come to predict that one of the three female filmmakers in competition this year would take the top prize. This article won’t diverge from that prediction, and of the three possibilities, Alice Rohwacher’s Happy As Lazzaro still seems like the safest bet, even with reports coming in that Blanchett teared up at the world premiere of Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015 Introduction, The Assassin, & Taxi

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Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Introduction, The Assassin, & Taxi

Well Go USA

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Introduction, The Assassin, & Taxi

In a recent Twitter exchange, critic and author Mark Harris described the Toronto International Film Festival as a “supermall.” The numerical facts for this year’s 40th edition suggest as much: 399 total offerings (289 features and 110 shorts) culled from 6,118 submissions from 71 countries. And in the previous two years I attended (2007 and 2008), there frequently was a consumptive feeling in the air that one would associate more with the marketplace than the movie house: Ingest now, digest much later.

That’s admittedly the rush of the festival circuit, an intoxicating feeling only intensified by Toronto’s sheer volume of choice, which allows you to catch a Ridley Scott here, an Apichatpong Weerasethakul there. Or delve deep into the avant-garde via the highly regarded Wavelengths program. Or catch some of the buzzed-about titles that played that year’s Cannes and will soon play this year’s New York Film Festival. Or just take a chance as scheduling affords, since there are always movies screening from early in the morning until late, late at night. (When else would Takashi Miike debut Yakuza Apocalypse, his latest exercise in extremity?)

Berlinale 2015 Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

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Berlinale 2015: Taxi

Berlinale

Berlinale 2015: Taxi

One may be initially struck by the lighter-than-expected tone of Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, the third film he’s made in spite of the government-ordered limitations imposed on his filmmaking. In contrast to the poignant melancholy of This Is Not a Film and the more intellectualized meta-movie surreality of Closed Curtain, Taxi features, as one of its opening scenes, an exchange between two cab-riding passengers that verges on the comic even as it touches on deeper issues of human empathy. It doesn’t take long, though, for Panahi’s usual thematic obsessions to rear their head, as we discover that a beret-donning Panahi himself is driving this particular cab, and that those two passengers are, in fact, actors, as a new passenger—a video-store clerk/DVD pirate who recognizes the director from seeing him rent movies at his store—realizes upon recognizing one passenger’s parting lines as being lifted straight from Panahi’s Crimson Gold. Even then, though, the fourth-wall-breaking revelation is handled in a breezy manner—until the airiness is brutally interrupted when a bloodied passenger is brought into his cab and Panahi is thrust into a situation in which getting him and his terrified wife to the nearest hospital means life or death.

True/False Film Fest 2014: The Notorious Mr. Bout and Actress

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True/False Film Fest 2014: <em>The Notorious Mr. Bout</em> and <em>Actress</em>
True/False Film Fest 2014: <em>The Notorious Mr. Bout</em> and <em>Actress</em>

Maxim Pozdorovkin and Tony Gerber’s The Notorious Mr. Bout teems with a masculine bravado evinced by both the documentary’s numerous male talking heads and its own chaotic, almost exhausting pace, which cuts between home-video recordings, news footage, CCTV cams, animated maps and explanations, and five continents to more comprehensively explain the tribulations (and eventual trial) of Viktor Bout, the convicted Russian arms dealer more colloquially known as “The Merchant of Death,” whose mythological status served as the basis for 2005’s Lord of War.

As Gerber explained in the Q&A following the film, he and Pozdorovkin set out to reveal that Bout isn’t simply a “shadowy Keyser Söze character,” but a complicated man who also liked to spend time with his family and shoot countless hours of home video. The danger in such an approach—and it’s a danger The Notorious Mr. Bout ultimately succumbs to—is that the subject becomes fairly romanticized rather than humanized, since the attempt to reverse one mythological status results in the valorization of another: insistence of Bout’s actual figure as part diabolical, part naïve, part victim. Unfortunately, Pozdorovkin and Gerber’s representation here appears as forced and questionable as much of the media portrayals denigrated throughout the film.

Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain

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Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain
Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain

Jafar Panahi’s harsh sentence from Iranian authorities—his house arrest, restrictions on filmmaking and travel, and communicating with media—have forced the filmmaker to contemplate not only the intellectual struggle that accompanies tyrannical artistic censorship, but its combined psychological and emotional manifestations. Having been denied the professional and creative outlet that made him an internationally appraised director, Panahi is now understandably enveloped in a kind of existential crisis, an unimaginable experience that he’s nonetheless found a way of crystallizing into his two latest films, made illegally with the help of other filmmakers.

These works—2011’s This Is Not a Film and this year’s Closed Curtain, co-directed by Kambuzia Partovi—surpass Panahi’s previous films in their aesthetic complexity, intellectual rigor, and, above all, reckless abandon. This Is Not a Film was a risk for Panahi because, as a so-called documentary, it didn’t appear to be about much more than his daily activities under house arrest: talking to his lawyer, pet-sitting his daughter’s iguana, and describing to the camera a script he wrote for a movie that he cannot make. Of course, Panahi’s seemingly candid setup transversed the conventions of documentary into a meaningful work of meta-cinema, a thorough exploration of the frustrating limits to which an artist can physically make a movie by simply turning on a camera and talking and walking through his or her ideas.

Cannes Film Festival 2013: The Past Review

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Cannes Film Festival 2013: <em>The Past</em> Review
Cannes Film Festival 2013: <em>The Past</em> Review

Just like many of his fellow countrymen, including compatriot Abbas Kiarostami, Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi has been forced to ply his trade outside his homeland’s borders under threat of government intervention. Whatever the logistics, however, Farhadi’s latest domestic drama, The Past, while produced in France, is a seamless translation of both his stylistic and thematic sensibilities. Farhadi arrived on an international level with 2011’s A Separation, a typically knotty character study which netted awards all the way from festivals to the Academy. He’d done similar, equally compelling work prior to his breakthrough (2009’s About Elly stands as arguably his strongest film), but with an increased eye on Middle Eastern cinema in the wake of Kiarostami’s Certified Copy and the jailing of the more radical, uncompromising Jafar Panahi, coupled with the film’s heart-tugging narrative, A Separation arrived at an opportune time for his country’s rise to international cinematic prominence. The Past parlays this goodwill with even more wide-reaching potential, extending Farhadi’s streak of strong work while cementing him as one of world cinema’s most universal storytellers.