HomeNews & Views Foreign Flick Friday: Banned Filmmaker Weaves Persian Language Docufiction from his Taxi in Tehran

Foreign Flick Friday: Banned Filmmaker Weaves Persian Language Docufiction from his Taxi in Tehran


In 2010, as a result of his filmmaking, Iranian director (and winner of the first major Iranian award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995) Jafar Panahi was arrested on propaganda charges for which he was imprisoned and then released into house arrest. Panahi was also banned from making films for a period of 20 years. Despite these restrictions, and with the help of international supporters, he has continued to create and share films that attempt to give people from around the world an inside look at the Iran in which he lives. His 2011 film This is not a Film was actually sneaked out of Iran for screenings on a USB memory stick that had been baked into a cake.

{{Looking for tips on how to use films or shows to improve your language skills? See our inaugural Foreign Flick Friday post.}}

In his 2015 film, Taxi (also referred to as Jafar Panahi’s Taxi), Panahi pretends to be a cab driver in Tehran and speaks on a dash-mounted camera with a variety of individuals who offer the cabbie their perspectives on life in the city and country at that particular moment in time.

It remains unclear how many of these people are aware that Panahi is making a movie or how many are speaking entirely candidly—who is a fare and who is playing a part?  This gives the film a distinctly documentary-like quality, whether or not the passengers are acting. Among the conversations arise themes including capital punishment, imprisonment, inheritance laws, questions of superstition and fanaticism, andof course—censorship and film making. What makes somebody a filmmaker, after all?  In response to this film, The New York Times suggests: “Maybe just curiosity, compassion and open eyes.”1

Taxi won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival as well as the FIPRESCI Prize, and has perplexed and captivated both viewers and critics alike with its glimpses at lives we might otherwise not encounter.2

Of the film, The New Yorker claimed: “Its subject is life in the crosshairs; it is, in effect, a found-footage horror film.”3 RogerEbert.com found it similarly unsettling: “These chilling moments underscore the unusual fact that whatever I might have gotten out of ‘Taxi’ from the perspective of my own enlightenment and/or enjoyment, it’s nevertheless a film that on a very crucial level needs to exist.”4

It’s movie night, so watch this trailer with us and let us know what you think @LeadWLanguages on social media.

Interested in the Persian language? Visit our Lead with Persian page to explore college and university programs near you, scholarship opportunities, and more!

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