Directed by Jafar Panahi
Golden Bear, 2015 Berlin International Film Festival
Jafar Panahi’s recent protest triptych – This is Not a Film, Closed Curtain (SDAFF ’13), and TAXI – could be construed as criminal acts in the eyes of the Iranian government. But if the director is indeed an enemy of the state, the international film community has been his willing and vocal accomplice.
Solidarity is a strong theme in TAXI, Panahi’s most playful and hopeful film in years. A subversive meshing of documentary and fiction, it finds the master director driving around Tehran posing as an everyday cabbie, interacting with customers (or are they actors?) in a variety of conversations.
TAXI’s grand sense of humor quickly becomes apparent. Panahi suggests that crime and punishment are relative terms; one man’s serious offense is another woman’s slap on the wrist. What’s clear, though, is that the cinema can help clarify these gradations when examined by artists that still see hope in human nature.
Look no further than the quote spoken by Panahi’s civil rights attorney: “Here is a rose for the people of cinema, because the people of cinema can be relied on.” That same flower rests on the dashboard during the final scene, in full view until two thieves literally steal the image away from us. It would be easy to get enraged by the interruption, but like Panahi does so often in TAXI, it’s hard not to smile. –Glenn Heath