Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 5, 2016 by Dennis Amith
“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is captivating, enjoyable but hidden deep within the film is a serious message. Whether or not certain scenes are staged or not, the fact is that the film is Panahi’s way to challenge the lack of freedom in his country by creating a film illegally. He may be banned from creating films, but his voice continues through cinema, has not been silenced. “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is highly recommended!
TITLE: Jafar Panahi’s Taxi
FILM RELEASE: 2015
DURATION: 81 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Farsi 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Optional English Subtitles
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Directed by Jafar Panahi
Written by Jahar Panahi
A yellow cab is driving through the vibrant and colourful streets of Teheran.
Very diverse passengers enter the taxi, each candidly expressing their views while being interviewed by the driver who is no one else but the director Jafar Panahi himself.
His camera placed on the dashboard of his mobile film studio captures the spirit of Iranian society through this comedic and dramatic drive…
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is best known for his feature film “The White Balloon” (1995), which won the Cannes d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
He has since won awards and received critical acclaim for films such as “The Mirror” (1997) and “Offside” (2006).
But in 2010, he was arrested alongside his wife, daughter and 15 friends and were charged with propaganda against the Iranian government.
Panahi was sentenced to six years in jail (under house arrest) and a 20-year ban from directing any movies, writings screenplays or being interviewed by Iranian or foreign media. Nor can he leave the country unless it was for receiving medical treatment or making the Hajj pilgrimage.
Despite his ban from filmmaking, Panahi has continued to make films illegally.
His 2011 film, “This is Not a Film” was smuggled on a USB flash drive inside a cake, his 2013 film “Closed Curtain” won a Silver Bear for Best Script and now his 2015 film “Taxi” won Golden Bear, the prize awarded for the best film at the Berlin Film Festival.
While many filmmakers, actors and artists have asked for Jahar Panahi’s release, as of this current time, his sentence continues, but Jafar still remains vigilant and will continue to make films.
And now Jahar Panahi’s award winning film “Taxi” was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.
It’s important to note that because the film was shot illegally, there are no credits for the film.
In “Taxi”, Panahi has installed a camera in a taxi to record life in Tehran as a taxi driver and for people to learn more about a true portrait of people in Tehran, as passengers speak their own mind to Panahi.
But what we see from the passengers and learn about life in Tehran, is quite surprising.
From Panahi picking up passengers who debate about punishments for muggers, picking up a passenger selling bootleg copies of American film or television shows, to illegal foreign films.
To shocking moments when Panahi is stopped and takes in a man who just got into a vehicular accident and must transfer the bloodied man and his crying wife to the hospital
The second half showcases Panahi picking up his niece, who is an aspiring young filmmaker, but has been given strict rules that she must follow by her teacher.
“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that in order for Jafar Panahi to film this movie, he had to use a digital camera affixed on the dashboard of the taxi but also incorporating video from his niece’s digital camera.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is presented in Farsi 5.1 DTS-HD with optional English subtitles. The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven.
“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” comes with no special features but the theatrical trailer.
“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” comes a ten page booklet which includes an essay by Jamsheed Akrami, film professor at William Paterson University.
Jafar Panahi’s “Taxi” is another wonderful film by the filmmaker, made shocking for the fact that it’s real and not staged. But showcasing true discussions that is reflective of Iranian society.
The film begins with a conversational debate among two passengers of what should happen to muggers, one who believes muggers should be taught a lesson by receiving death, while another tries to argue that it is two extreme for one to die for stealing tires. It becomes a heated debate about the morality of capital punishment and Sharia law.
Another passenger, who recognizes Panahi, worked at a video store and now pirates foreign films, especially American film and TV shows into Tehran and sales them to people illegally and showing that there is an interest from people to watch entertainment from overseas.
This scene is rather interesting because a lot of film are not available in the country and many would not be familiar with commercial or arthouse film without these people giving them access to the bootlegs.
But a shocking moment is when Panahi picks up a man who has gotten into an vehicular accident and along with his wife, rushes to the hospital, while he tries to give his will while bleeding profusely. The man wants it written on paper or recorded on a phone, because of the inheritance laws and wanting to make sure his brothers do not do anything against his wife and that they follow his wishes.
Meanwhile the bootlegger asks the question that many people are wondering while watching the movie, was what happened staged or was it for real?
While there are other passengers, one of the most interesting is part of Panahi’s family. The film’s second half features Panahi and his niece Hana Saeidi who has a school assignment which was to create a short film about true society, but the rules given by the teachers try to force the students to go by rules that are not necessarily true of society.
His niece, young Hana brings a vibrant side to the film as she is often trying to scold her busy uncle but also trying to get that perfect shot of him or others. And it’s interesting to see this young aspiring filmmaker, trying to shoot a film that would one day become “distributable” and learns about “sordid realism”. But the rules reads more like, do not create a film like your uncle.
When Jafar and Hana visit his old friend, Jafar asks Hana if his friend looks like a bad man? Because he wears a suit, a tie and doesn’t have a beard (which her teacher recommends for her film, good men must have a beard, not wear a tie or a suit).
The film ends with Jafar picking up human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is going to meet a female athlete who was imprisoned. Which is reminiscent of Panahi’s 2006 film “Offside” about girls who are forbidden to watch the World Cup qualifying match because of their sex (on the grounds that there will be a high risk of violence or verbal abuse against them). A film that was inspired by Panahi’s daughter.
Sotoudeh’s words brings hope, as she has seen her friend Jafar Panahi still making films despite what had happened to him.
There is no doubt an underlying message that Jafar Panahi was able to communicate with viewers about how reality is for people in his country, but also the prohibitions that people must follow and what happens to those who don’t.
As for the Kino Lorber Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good, considering the limitations that Jafar Panahi had to work with. A digital video camera on his car’s dashboard and also utilizing footage from his niece’s digital camera, Panahi who continues to make films illegally due to his punishment, uses whatever he can to get the job done.
Picture quality is good, lossless audio is clear and while I wish there were special features, unfortunately Jafar Panahi is not allowed to speak to any media as part of his sentence. But I will share this video of Panahi’s niece Hana, receiving the “Golden Bear” award on his behalf at the Berlin Film Festival:
Overall, “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is captivating, enjoyable but hidden deep within the film is a serious message. Whether or not certain scenes are staged or not, the fact is that the film is Panahi’s way to challenge the lack of freedom in his country by creating a film illegally. He may be banned from creating films, but his voice continues through cinema, has not been silenced.
“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is highly recommended!
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