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Tribute to Jafar Panahi

Tribute to Jafar Panahi

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Like many other festivals around the world, Locarno salutes the courage of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, sentenced in December 2010 to six years in prison and banned from filmmaking for twenty years, for having criticised the Islamic Republic of Iran’s government, with a screening of his second feature film The Mirror (Golden Leopard winner at the Festival del film Locarno in 1997) on Monday August 8 at 14h at the Rialto 1.

A leading director of the Iranian New Wave, but also a major figure in the opposition to the regime, Panahi is no stranger to harassment by the State that has often prevented him from filming and releasing his films in his own country.

Although Panahi’s work has regularly won prizes at major international festivals, his films are now banned in Iran, even if they are distributed clandestinely on DVD, sold on the black market. Panahi inspired a whole new generation of Iranian filmmakers. Shooting his films in secret, he invented the technique of doubling up on film crews.

One would act as decoy but if the production was threatened, could replace the other which was doing the real filming in secret. His scandalously harsh sentence has not stopped Panahi, living in seclusion, cut off from the world, from using a small digital camera to shoot a new film in his own home, This is not a film, shown out of competition in a surprise screening at the last Cannes Festival.

The Mirror, like The Circle (2000) and Offside (2006), deals with the condition of women in Iranian society, whose lives are hemmed in by prohibitions, inequalities and injustices. The Mirror offers an uncompromising form of resistance and disobedience, via the example of a child. It is the story of a little girl who decides to go home by herself rather than wait for her mother to arrive at the end of the school day to collect her. Stubborn and unpredictable, she meets several adults on her way with whom she holds her own.

The film also offers an allegory on cinema via an unexpected film-within-a-film insert. The little girl ends up interrupting the film, because she is tired of playing her part and obeying the instructions of the director, played by Jafar Panahi himself.

Olivier Père
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