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Catch a ride on Taxi Teheran

Catch a ride through the chaotic streets of Teheran with director Jafar Panahi at the wheel and the people of the city in the back seat.

2 minutes

 

Catch a ride through the chaotic streets of Teheran with director Jafar Panahi at the wheel and the people of the city in the back seat.

 

Panahi’s latest film, Taxi Teheran, winner of the Golden Bear at 2015 Berlin International Film Festival, opens with a shot from a camera fixed inside a taxi, where the entire film takes place. Outside, people cross the street on a red light, and we are absorbed by the hectic flow of the city.

This first shot lasts as long as the red light, as we become adjusted to this city, to its streets, to its life. Real life is precisely the subject of this film: something that cannot be shown nowadays, in Iran, due to heavy government regulations.

 

Not only was Panahi not allowed to show real life in Iran, he wasn’t supposed to be filming a movie at all, because of a 20-year ban that was imposed on him after being arrested for anti- governmental propaganda. Hence, he chose a small, closed-in environment, similar to what he did in This is not a film – shot in his apartment. In addition, by filming in a taxi, he is making a precise reference to Ten by Abbas Kiarostami, under whose tutorship Panahi’s career has begun.

 

Panahi’s “clients” are lively and diverse. Among them, there is a DVD bootlegger who sells films with the same attitude as if he was selling drugs and who defines his occupation as a “cultural activity.”
As absurd as it may sound, he makes a good point. If it wasn’t for him, people from Teheran, Panahi included, would never be able to watch movies or TV shows from the rest of the world, because of Iranian censorship. Not even Panahi’s movies.
The DVD bootlegger, along with other characters, such as a cinema student and even Panahi’s niece talking about her assignment from school, serve as a reminder of the role of cinema and the artist’s commitment.
In particular, Panahi’s niece’s assignment is a light-hearted parody of what Iranian filmmakers are reduced to – schoolkids that are expected to blankly put the government’s rules into practice.

 

Still of Hana Saeidi trying to capture "reality" © 2015 Koch Lorber Films Above: still of Jafar Panahi © 2015 Koch Lorber Films

Still of Hana Saeidi trying to capture “reality” © 2015 Koch Lorber Films
Above: still of Jafar Panahi © 2015 Koch Lorber Films

 

Through his characters, Panahi sparks a conversation about cinema and its role in Iranian society, where cinema is denied the possibility to be freely created, (e.g. Panahi) and distributed (the DVD bootlegger), and ends up being perceived as an empty canvas on which one doesn’t know what to paint (the cinema student), especially since it is precisely reality one cannot portray (Panahi’s niece).

Panahi refuses to give in to the conditions set by the government. As he said in his famous statement:

«When being pushed to the ultimate corners, I connect with my inner-self and, in such private spaces, despite all limitations, the necessity to create becomes even more of an urge.»

Therefore, this technique of filming is how Panahi has found new means for his message to get out there, to reach us.

This film is not about rebellion. It shows reality in the most honest way, without any need to emphasize the deceiving stance of the regime or to spell out its unfairness. All Panahi has to do is to film reality, using any device – a video camera, a camera or a cellphone. It’s enough for us to understand what is going on in Iran.

 


Taxi Teheran poster - UberAuraDirector: Jafar Panahi
Writer: Jafar Panahi
Cast: Jafar Panahi, Hana Saeidi
Year: 2015
Trailer

Francesca Laura is a talented and eclectic writer, she works as a script consultant for a well-known film production house in Italy, while cultivating her passion for literature. She is currently involved in different projects with directors and authors.

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