In Review!: “Taxi”

Our idea of political cinema here in America has predictable: a political campaign drama before major election years or hot button topics given lukewarm treatments. We can always expect charged commentary from documentaries, even when the revelations in the film are self-evident and not illuminating. Our expectations have become that we’re going to be talked to but not that we will engage with.

But what about a film itself existing as political statement regardless of its content? Here we have Jafar Panahi, Iranian filmmaker famously censored by his government. Currently five years into a 20-year house arrest sentence, he’s banned from leaving the country and engaging in any type of filmmaking due to political dissent. Any film he could create would be inherently a political statement and open defiance, even in a package as humanistic and farcical as his newest film, Taxi.

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His confinement and limitations have led to uniquely contained pieces, forced to be inventive under the pressure of watching eyes and threat of further imprisonment. Documenting his initial persecution, This is Not a Film was partially filmed on his cellphone and famously smuggled out of the country on a flash drive hidden in a cake. Similarly on-the-fly, Taxi uses micro cameras and cellphone footage to remain incognito while out in the crowded streets of Tehran. Here Panahi may be in the word, but the confine of the cab keep him from being with the world.

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