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American Women's Club of Hamburg


Jarfar Panahis, Iran
When I arrived at the Berlinale Festival, I was immediately accosted by a Spanish film crew wanting to interview me to find out if I had ever openly talked to a taxi driver. I laughed and said of course I have. Anyone who has taken a taxi in New York certainly has had and interesting conversation with a taxi driver. But as I actually thought about, I have talked to drivers all over the world about various subjects and today would be no different. Moments later, my journalist colleagues arrived on the scene shouting, “You must see the film Taxi by Jarfar Panahis! Such a great film!” So I jumped into the next cab heading for the Haus der Berliner Festspiele for the last showing of the film. It also was enough time to get into a lengthy discussion with my cabby who came from the eastern mountains of Turkey and is also a film lover. Since we both had seen many of the Turkish films we had a great conversation as to which films we liked best. He said he also received the tip that this film is a must see and had already put it on his list.
Jarfar Panahis wrote, directed and acted in Taxi. In Iran, Panahis is banned from being a film maker by his own government due to his political views. Therefore this film was smuggled out of the country in order for us to see it at the Berlinale to represent his film. He creatively uses a taxi as a perfect prop to convey the political injustices which are occurring on an everyday basis in Iran. He uses a series of cameras to bring the point of view across and a perspective that brought it closer to the audience. Two cameras were mounted in his taxi, one on the front dash board and one on the back of the passenger’s seat next to the driver. There were also two mobile phones and an iPad that play a role in the film. He even had a camera on the street filming a wedding where strange events took place. Each camera acted as a witness to these different events added yet another layer of political statements to the film. With each new customer of the taxi comes a new story. The story grows and takes form while winding between the lives of these ordinary people as the taxi makes its way through the city.  It touches upon thieves, teachers, couples and family members who all struggle to understand the obstacles that they have to overcome in order to survive under this oppressive government.  Panahis began film making in 1988 and showed a film here last year called A Closed Curtain which was even more complicated to understand but dealt with the same topic. He opted for a more in-your-face storyline this year which reached the audience in a very confrontational way and made it perfectly clear what is going on politically in Iran from this film maker/taxi driver’s point of view. And as my Turkish driver has done, this film should be put on the must-see film list. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)

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