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