Dave Rice 12:38 p.m., May 21
Tomorrow night brings San Diego’s one and only screening of this year’s most highly anticipated film, and yet many of you will be wasting your time at The Avengers.
The San Diego Asian Film Festival will screen Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s This is Not a Film at 7 pm in the James S. Copley Auditorium of the San Diego Museum of Art.
That’s it. As of today this is not a film slated to get a theatrical release in America’s finest (except when it come to movies) city.
Paradoxically, I am not allowed to review the film. The distributor prefers a review to run in conjunction with the film's release rather than a festival one-off, and asks that I hold off just in case either Landmark or Reading change their mind and decide to book it.
The film has not been given a DVD release date -- I ran “this is not a film Jafar” through Amazon and all that came up was a used VHS copy of Disney’s Aladdin and the King of Thieves that isn’t worth the penny it would cost to buy it -- but once it hits home video there’s no chance it will get a theatrical release.
Renowned humanitarian filmmaker, Jafar Panahi (The Mirror, Crimson Gold, Offside) was prosecuted for “assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” He is currently under house arrest awaiting the outcome of his appeal of a 6-year prison sentence. (With it comes an additional 20-year ban on making or directing any movies, writing screenplays, and participating in any form of interview. He is also forbidden to leave the country.)
If all this is true, why am I even talking about a new film by Jafar Panahi, let alone announcing tomorrow night's screening of one? In an act of blazing defiance, Panahi used his iPhone and a digital video camera to create his documentary and -- in a loving tribute to Warner Bros. gangster films from the '30's -- had it smuggled out of Iran on a thumb-drive hidden inside a cake.
This is Not a Film should (but won't) set an example for every tripod-free mumblecore knucklehead to billion dollar munitions experts like Zack Snyder and Tony Scott. Come to think of it, all of the Snyder and Scott product would play just as well under the title This Is Not a Film.
Were I to review the movie, which I am not, this remarkably personal and immediate piece of storytelling would surely garner a 5-star rave and be lauded as the most compelling, and enraging, 75 minutes you're likely to see in a theatre this year. (I don't foresee anything that could possibly come close to topping This is Not a Film when I compile my list of 2012's finest.) But I can't solicit personal opinion due to the embargo. Why not see it tomorrow night and send me your reviews?
Before the film, UCSD Professor Babak Rahimi will give a talk outlining post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. It's G rated, so bring the kids. Seriously, they'd take away more from this than anything on display in The Lorax.
Click for ticket prices and more information.