330 Great Directors: Jafar Panahi

“I’m fed up with surreptitiously making everything in very confined spaces, and not having the freedom to work as I used to…It makes me feel sick thinking of all these projects I’d like to do, but I don’t have the ability to make them.”

Why This Director?: Because some of us don’t have the luxury of artistic freedom.

My Last Experience Was…: None.

What Did I Watch: His best regarded pre-ban film and the one that got him in trouble in the first place, Offside.

Where Does He Fit: I cannot stand sports, but soccer is my least favorite not due to its overwhelming popularity (if I wanted to be contrarian, I’d go with American football which I probably hate even more at this point) but because of a bad childhood experience with a mean coach who always put the same people in at the start and enjoyed kicking the ball very high up in the air to start things off, once hitting me very hard in the head. It fucking hurt.

Still, the passion a sport so simple has in inspiring people all across the world is sweet, and it is hard not to feel anger when in the opening moments, a worried father says, with anger that’s difficult to pinpoint where it is aimed, that his daughter might be killed by her brothers for sneaking out to attend a big match that is going on that day. He reverts back to cheerfulness instantly, too.


We eventually see some other girls wearing the same type of horrible disguises (hats, baggy clothing), and the one who we have primarily been following gets predictably caught and led to this hilariously crappy prison:


Terrifying, but she has already gotten her phone taken away and cannot call her family even with a soldier (all of whom are just doing their national service and do not seem to care much one way or the other about the policy) using up her battery to call his bitter girlfriend. Such an arbitrary, unfair world these women live in, especially when the men can look through a gate to see the match and they cannot.

From there, the situation produces endless variations on a similar idea, with things like going to the bathroom, smoking, and settling for the next-best thing (commentary, which turns out to be hilariously biased) becoming problems, with the most hilarious scene being the first, as a girl has to wear a poster for a mask, shuts down the mild chauvinism of her escort through the whole walk (it’s hilarious, thank god Panahi has a sense of humor about this frankly terrible situation), and he eventually has to deal with a constant inflow and outflow of men attempting to pee as he gives the woman some privacy before a gay joke with a punchline to funny to spoil. This is done in a long take so casual that by the time the girl gets her way for a little while, we don’t realize at first that we might just be rooting for the soldier. The system is designed so that the higher ups are the real dickheads, with a male fire-starter with a record getting let in and only hauled out at the last minute. Equivalent to being a woman, no doubt.


Watch this movie right away, it’s the lightest film to get the government involved and my new favorite sports movie. Most astonishing is the fact that between this and You the Living, there were two masterpieces in 2007 right under my nose.


Most Valuable Asset: Hard to get a grasp of what makes a film Panahi-esque with just the one seen, but I’ll say improvisation since you could never tell that ending was unplanned and I’m sure he needs to improvise his newer works now.
Buzzword: Investigative.
Most Excited For: Lots of good stuff here since I only watched one, but I’ll say Crimson Gold and This is Not a Film. One from before the ban and one from after.

Coming Up Next: Mohsen Makhmalbaf, another Iranian, and one who jumped right into the fiction/nonfiction straddling that Panahi only undertook when he was censored.


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