If the story behind this Iranian documentary is more urgently compelling than the film itself, that’s hardly surprising. Appealing a six-year prison sentence (and 20-year ban from filmmaking) for his political views, acclaimed Iranian director Panahi (Offside, The Circle) is filmed under house arrest, describing the unmade film his country’s oppressive regime wouldn’t let him make. Shot partly on an iPhone, the film is then smuggled out of Iran (in a cake) to the Cannes film festival.
It’s a laudable cause, supported by such film luminaries as the Coen brothers, Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg and, most vocally, Juliette Binoche and Isabella Rosselini. But stripped of context, the film drags.
“Contains no material likely to offend or harm,” says the BBFC. The Iranian government might disagree. ★★★