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Explaining Censorship

by Michelle Langford

In this clip, Jafar Panahi's 'niece' is reading a list of guidelines that her teacher has given her. These should form the basis of a school project in which she is to make a short film. The guidelines give to her by her teacher match closely with the censorship guidelines that filmmakers in Iran must work with. This includes women being veiled, no touching between men and women, sartorial and naming conventions for representing 'good' and 'bad' characters and no political content or 'sordid realism.' In this clip, Panahi refers to a friend that had appeared in the previous scene. He wears a tie and has an Iranian name, hence the little girl's response that they would have to completely transform him to depict him as a good character. Effectively the scene highlights the degree to which censorship creates a problem for realism. It also highlights the process of self censorship which also inflects most films made in the country. This clip is a good example of the self-reflexive and self-referential characteristics of Panahi's filmmaking style. The discussion of 'sordid realism' and censorship guidelines reinforces the fact that this film would never be granted a screening permit. The precocious little girl is highly reminiscent of the little girls that appears in his earlier feature films The White Balloon (1995) and The Mirror (1997).

Tehran Taxi - Rules for making a 'screenable' film

Clip from Tehran Taxi (Jafar Panahi, 2015)

from Tehran Taxi (2015)
Creator: Jafar Panahi
Distributor: new wave films
Posted by Michelle Langford