Movies Taxi PanahiJaffar Panahi’s Taxi, an entry at the recent Mill Valley Film Festival has made it into at least limited distribution in commercial theaters [Marin, San FranciscoBerkeley.] Catch it while you can.

Panahi has won wide acclaim for his movies outside his native Iran, winning a prize at Cannes in 1995 for his first, The White Balloon, at Locarno in 1997 for The Mirror and in 2000 at Venice for The Circle.  [Most of his films are available for rent or purchase, on-line.] Inside, it’s a different story.  Since his conviction in 2010, for “assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic” he had been banned from making movies, writing screenplays or giving interviews.  His answer in 2011 was a documentary titled “This Is Not a Film.”   Happily, the rest of the film-going world, or at least the art-theater subset, is able to appreciate his work, his humor and his  insider’s look at the Iranian people.

Taxi takes place during a day in which Panahi drives around Tehran with a couple of cameras rigged to film himself and his passengers, little noticed by them.  Frankly I don’t know if what we are seeing is spontaneous, rehearsed, or suggested but the effect is a wonderful look at every-day Tehran, including a spunky female lawyer going to help a couple of young women arrested for demonstrating for the right of women to go to soccer matches. [Offside, 2006, is about the same subject.]

The centerpiece of the day is Panahi’s actual young niece (10 years?) who belabors him for movie making advice while using her own digital camera to film just about everything she sees.  She’s a quick witted, sharp tongued young lady; Iran will not be the same when her age cohort gets to their twenties!

Comic relief is present throughout but the conversation of two middle-aged women, frantic to return a gold fish to a city pond before 12:00 noon, is priceless.

Absolutely wonderful!

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