Taxi Tehran [2016] : Understanding the Invisible Truth in Iran

3:10 AM

Jafar Panahi is a reputable film director from Iran. His bravery to portrait reality throughout Iran had caused him pay a massive cost for it. He is well-known for films like Offside [2006] and The Circle [2003], apparently Iran's government are concerned and didn't like the way Panahi showed what really happened in daily Iran. Since 2010, Iran's government have made him under house arrest, prevented him from travelling and legally banned him from producing films. 

The director disguised himself as a taxi driver, wandering around Tehran, picking up passengers like usual taxis do, and also having chat with them like usual drivers do. From those conversations, we can explicitly understand what happens in Iran. The passengers are varied, from his relative, the ones who are religiously innocents, freedom fighters, to some victims of government's oppression.

The first passengers are a guy and a woman who didn't know each other. In the first place, they argued about what should government do upon thieves. This guy wanted thieves should be hanged, he claimed the law of sharia is inevitable on all aspects of life. In another way, the woman disagree. She thought that there are too many executions happened in Iran, and it is not anywhere near humanistic. Also, she told him that their country needs to empowering women more, yet the guy aggressively countered her arguments with the law of Islam. Their conversation didn't end well for both of them.

Next passengers are two women who wanted to devoted their faith through a certain -yet strange- ritual in a shrine. They were carrying a bowl with a fish in it. The fish was meant to put in the shrine to repel bad luck. Another passenger was a guy named Omid. He was a self-proclaimed liberty partisan. As a matter of fact, Omid sold pirated DVDs. In our country, this profession might be dishonorable, but in Iran, watching certain foreign movies is restricted. Thus, this made people like Omid praised by some people who wanted to broaden their mind through foreign films.

Later, Panahi went to pick his niece, Hana, at school. Hana told her uncle about a film project from her school teacher. It had certain criteria, it should portray nothing but goodness in daily life of Iran. The project became harder since she incidentally recorded a boy picking some dropped money. She was sure her film wouldn't be able to be submitted so she urged him to return the money back. Eventually, the last passenger was Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights activist who shared the Sakharov Award with Panahi himself. Three of them then discussed about political oppression in Iran, in the end they stated that nobody could do anything but to live together with it.

Watching Taxi Tehran was truly a fun yet sad experience. Without any scores, the film has nothing to be thrilled about but every truth in it made me think deeply : Do these things really happen in Iran? Every frame is consisted from simple pictures captured by still video camera on the dashboard, or Hana's shaky cam. There were no complex moves from the camera, the only variation were several slow-paced street views from inside the car.

Panahi's decision not to put credit in this film is shocking. As far as I know, it turns out that he didn't want any of his colleagues also get arrested by the authority. At the very latest frame we could read a love letter dedicated to all people who supported him.

Although the film seemed not very dynamic, Taxi Tehran's genuine power came from every conversation throughout the film. When passengers come and go, new truths are discovered. Jafar Panahi's fearlessness to speak out about their bizarre situation through films is something else bigger than the movie itself. However, Taxi Tehran is the third film he made after the 2010 sanction. Previously, he made the famous This is not a Film [2011] and Closed Curtain [2013], both of them are smuggled to be screened worldwide. This time, Taxi [2016] received Golden Bear in Berlin because its courageous film-making under high political surveillance and its aesthetic masterpiece.

Taxi Tehran [2016]
Director : Jafar Panahi
Screenplay by : Jafar Panahi
Cast : Jafar Panahi, Hana Saeidi

Listening to : Danilla - Sepasang Mata Bola

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