Jafar Panahi's Taxi (2015)—Iran
We hear a lot about Iran today, but what's it really like? Jafar Panahi is one of Iran's most influential film makers. He was arrested in 2010 — along with his wife, daughter, and fifteen friends, on propaganda charges, sentenced to six years in prison, and banned from making movies, leaving the country, or talking to the media for twenty years. Taxi is the third film that Panahi has made since living under house arrest. The documentary features Panahi under cover and in disguise — he dons a beret, attaches a camera to his dash board, and drives a taxi around Tehran. By my count there are eight random passenger conversations in the eighty minute film. Some are whimsical, one is tragic, another is bizarre. There are several takeaways — art is a form of political subversion (witness the video and music bootleggers), religious conservatism is like constant background noise, and everyone is fearful of the criminal "justice" system. One passenger was beaten by thieves but refused to turn them in because he was scared about the punishment they might get from the government. Two passengers recognize Panahi, one of whom is his dissident lawyer who herself is under investigation by the government. Taxi premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015, and won the best film award. I watched this film on Netflix Streaming; it's in Farsi with English sub-titles.