Some say the simplest way to make a movie to simply hit the record button on a camera. That’s exactly what Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi did in his Golden Bear award-winning film Taxi Tehran. Told entirely through the lens of his in-vehicle camera, Taxi Tehran is a documentary-like film that paints a portrait of Tehran, the capital of Iran.
The reason for this style of filmmaking is simple: Panahi has been banned from making films in his own country, hence the very discreet method. Neither is he allowed to travel out of Iran, therefore he could not be present to receive the prize when Taxi Tehran was awarded the Berlin Film Festival’s top accolade this February.
Starring Panahi himself as the driver of a taxi in Tehran, Panahi drives through the city and picks up passengers, members of the public of all kinds of characters and interesting lives. As Panahi converses with them like any ordinary taxi driver would, we learn about their livelihoods at that point of time, and why they are going to their destinations. These are stories that slowly form the kind of film Taxi Tehran eventually turns out to be.
Even as the taxi driver, one can tell that Panahi is genuinely pleased to know that his film is in the process of being made. He is all-smiles almost throughout the film, and there is no one single moment in which he shows a hint of sadness or disappointment at anything.
Needless to say, Taxi Tehran is full of its own kind of drama and comedy. At the wheel, Panahi is sometimes recognized by his passengers as a film director, and begins more personal conversations about his life. With honest storytelling at its core, Taxi Tehran is filmmaking at its simplest as it disregards all the norms of conventional filmmaking techniques.
A film that needs no ratings to be praised, Taxi Tehran does not have a list of credits either, making it perhaps the only film of its kind selected to compete in as prestigious a festival as the Berlinale. Even his own niece who starred in Taxi Tehran, Hana Saeidi, looked triumphant and visibly delighted to receive the award on his behalf. As Darren Aronofsky, Jury President of the Berlinale put it, “Taxi is a love letter to cinema”.
Taxi Tehran will have its Singapore premiere at The Projector on 28th May 2015, 8.00pm.
The trailer below comes without English subtitles.
Directed by: Jafar Panahi
Running time: 82 minutes
Awards: Winner of Golden Bear at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival