Jafar Panahi: Why Make a Film?


NB. This piece was written in 2010 for a project that never quite got off the ground due to a convergence of unhappy circumstances. However, meeting and talking with the instigators of said project was a happy occasion. What you’re about to read was written immediately after Panahi was sentenced. It is presented here with minimal tinkering, and consequently doesn’t deal with his more recent films. A planned companion piece about Mohammed Rasoulouf’s work never materialised.

Jafar Panahi and Mohammed Rasoulof’s prison sentences and creative silencing will no doubt be a source of little surprise to those familiar with Iran’s present regime. Nor will it shock those old enough to remember past, perhaps analogous situations, such as the repeated attempts by the Soviet authorities to imprison and silence Sergei Paradzhanov. Cinema’s ability to tie wide-ranging social, psychological and – ultimately – human abstractions into tightly bound knots, and the medium’s capacity to be widely distributed and easily understood, has rarely gone unnoticed by bureaucrats, theocrats and other authoritarians. Continue reading

The Films Of Bruce McDonald


Bruce McDonald’s career confounds auterist criticism’s tendency to boil down a director’s work to a single idea or a recurring set of themes. His diverse career encompasses road movies, punk rock films, horror movies and poignant character studies. In 2001, Playback magazine’s poll of fifteen “all time best Canadian movies”  featured Hard Core Logo (1996) at number two and Highway 61 (1991) at number fifteen. Box office returns and allocated budgets, though, do not necessarily reflect McDonald’s high standing among industry professionals (who voted in the poll) or the devotion of his fans. Continue reading

Jan Lenica’s Ubu et la Grande Gidouille (1979)


Jan Lenica’s 1979 feature length animated film Ubu et la Grande Gidouille is his most ambitious work: boldly designed, assertively crude in its animation and subject matter, and most importantly, it is bitterly, unsparingly satirical. Ubu is a testament to a long career straddling the avant-garde and the commercial. Although Lenica lived until 2001, he worked only sporadically in animation afterwards, focusing instead on teaching and design. This was his chance to make a grand statement; to express his disillusionment at the failed promise of artistic and political ideals. Continue reading