Jafar Panahi's Taxi

(Iran, 2015, 82 mins, DCP)
CAST Jafar Panahi
PROD Jafar Panahi
SCR Jafar Panahi
PROD CO Jafar Panahi Film Production
Awards: Golden Bear, Berlin 15


Since being banned from making movies in his native Iran in 2010 for being too critical of his country, renowned director Jafar Panahi has not-so-discreetly disobeyed those orders. This is Not a Film, made in 2011 and shot entirely in his apartment, was an empowering masterpiece about the nature of life and art, and 2013’s Closed Curtain was a sobering confessional about the prohibition of freedom. Continuing with some of the themes that run through those films, Panahi again confronts the limitations imposed on him and transcends them—this time from the confines of a taxicab.

With a small camera on his dashboard (that can swivel around for the purposes of reframing), Panahi stars in the film as himself, disguised as a taxi driver in Tehran. Operating somewhere between documentary and fiction, he picks up passengers in situations that lie ambiguously between the scripted and the naturalistic. Panahi’s warm screen presence guides this playful episodic exercise as a succession of people enter his vehicle and engage in conversation (Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten is a clear influence here), often leading to humorous and self-reflexive scenarios that point to difficult questions of self-expression under an oppressive regime. Underlying Taxi is something optimistic and celebratory: an almost childlike rediscovery of the joy of filmmaking and its cathartic power.

"A beautifully humane fable… a good-humoured jeu d’esprit, a piece of freewheeling cinephile activism… It’s a rueful but insistent statement to the effect that he is down but not out…"—Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

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