I was recently browsing through the BBC iPlayer film selection. Pleasantly surprised, I saw Taxi Tehran on their list. This had always been one of those Iranian films I had been meaning to watch, but not had the opportunity to. BBC, I thank you.
Jafar Panahi, the director of Taxi Tehran, can be well praised for his work. Of course, it is his bravery to create his work that is utmost remarkable. The Iranian regime has banned him from making films, so what did Panahi do? He carried on creating more work.
Panahi made several realist dramas about the challenges of everyday life in Iran, such as The Circle. He soon fell foul of the Iranian government who threatened to imprison him, prevent him from travel and from making films for 20 years. Panahi continued with film making and produced Taxi Tehran.
With Panahi behind the wheel, the entire film is set in a taxi around Tehran. The passengers are presumably actors for the majority of the film. You assume everything is staged one minute, then there are moments of spontaneity, so it is difficult to tell.
The passengers in the taxis are a range of characters and have very different things to say. There is a man who proposes to hang tyre thieves and a woman who completely objects, a DVD bootlegger who provides Tehran with Woody Allen’s work and a female who’s going to visit somebody on hunger strike in prison. Panahi’s real life niece also makes an appearance too.
Taxi Tehran isn’t aesthetically groundbreaking, but that’s not the point here. Panahi has created a film that continues to be visually lively throughout. The conversations of the characters are the focus and interest of the film, with a constant switch of passengers. Panahi stays true to himself and continues to fight for his work. For that he is a unique character himself.