Politically persecuted Iranian master Jafar Panahi — still under house arrest and banned from filmmaking for twenty years for engaging in "propaganda" against the Islamic Republic — follows his magnificent This Is Not a Film with another brilliant and moving hybrid of video diary, essay film, and impassioned political protest.
Jafar Panahi, Kambozia Partovi
It's been said that movies cannot change the world but that the people watching them can. So what about the people who make them? Dissident Iranian director Jafar Panahi — serving a six-year sentence to house arrest and subject, since 2010, to a twenty-year ban from filmmaking for engaging in "propaganda" against the Iranian regime — now resorts to cinema as the last means of his own survival.
Closed Curtain finds Panahi in a much darker mood than when he first started building worlds within his newly imposed confines, as witnessed in 2011 Festival selection This is Not a Film (famously smuggled into Cannes on a flash drive concealed within a cake). Here, he relocates the action to his secluded beach house, blacks out its windows, and lets loose among the ghosts that haunt him.
Dispensing with an initial plot about a screenwriter (played by co-director Kambozia Partovi), his pet dog (an allusion to Iran's recent decision to ban dog-walking in public) and a manic-depressive drama queen, Panahi rips through the narrative fabric only to establish himself as the star player. But there's no vanity here.
Trapped in a gilded cage lined with past
glories (the walls are covered in foreign
posters from earlier successful releases),
Panahi's ghosts may be faded from view
but they're still near. Taunted by his own
fictional characters and all the films he will
never get to make, the boundlessly imaginative
but frustrated artist even begins
to entertain grim fantasies of (fictional)
suicide. As macabre as that might sound,
filmmaking is Panahi's only redemption,
and even if it can't change the world, it's the
only thing that seems capable of keeping
him from abandoning it.