TAXI TEHRAN (director/writer: Jafar Panahi; cinematographer: Jafar Panahi; editor: Jafar Panahi; cast: Jafar Panahi; Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jafar Panahi; Kino Lorber; 2015-Iran-in Persian with English subtitles)

"Considering the harsh conditions the humanist Panahi had to work under, getting this film released is a small miracle."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The internationally celebrated banned Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi ("Offside"/"The Circle"/"The White Balloon") shot this playful and thoughtful political documentary while under house arrest in Iran. He found a loophole in his ban, which allowed filming under a closed environment. His "Taxi" was meant to be a calling out for free speech in an authoritarian fundamentalist Islamic country. Panahi received a 6-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban from filmmaking because he backed the opposition party in the 2009 election.

The plotless documentary centers around the affable Panahi driving a cab around busy Tehran and encountering a wide variety of passengers. They remain anonymous real citizens, who freely talk about their concerns. A man argues with a woman school teacher that even petty thieves should be hanged. A DVD bootlegger sells a customer discs recommended by Panahi. There are a number of other fares, including two older women carrying goldfish in a fish bowl who talk about the use of goldfish in one of his early films. But the best vignette involves his confrontation with his sharp-tongued 10-year-old niece Hana, an aspiring filmmaker. Despite her teacher's list of restrictions, Hana disobeys them and shoots a scene in the street that results in her student film being destroyed.

Considering the harsh conditions the humanist Panahi had to work under, getting this film released is a small miracle.

It won
the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 6/14/2016       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"