Even before the coronavirus spread around the world and was declared a pandemic, reports of lockdowns and self-quarantining in response to the threat of COVID-19 called to mind Jafar Panahi‘s 2011 feature This is Not a Film (co-directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb). The documentary, which was both made and smuggled out of Iran illegally, shows audiences the Iranian filmmaker’s day-to-day life under house arrest.
Panahi was confined to his apartment in Tehran following charges of creating propaganda against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime. He was sentenced to six years in prison and was banned from filmmaking, but he was allowed to stay home while awaiting an appeal. Despite the focus on such tedious isolation, the film (or “film”?) is actually pretty riveting. It’s also obviously quite political just in its existence.
This is Not a Film has become even more cited since the spread of COVID-19, especially as Iran has become a major hotspot for the virus, though I mostly see it brought up in relevance to self-quarantining here in the US, just because this is the bubble I’m in for the most part. But that’s okay because an important theme in all this is that we’re all in it together, globally. We’re finding ways to connect where we can.
Our Iranian Lockdown is a new documentary that reminds us of that again. The 11-minute short, posted by The Guardian, is by Tehran-based filmmakers Sara Khaki and Mohammad Reza Eyni, and it’s a self-chronicled look at their day-to-day life confined to their apartment. The doc is obviously reminiscent of This is Not a Film, even to the point that both are set during the Persian New Year.
The new short is also similar to another that was posted online more than two months ago as part of the New York Times Op-Docs series. As I noted in a post from mid-March, Self-Quarantined for the Holidays was released before Americans could really relate to the doc’s subjects, who were in lockdown in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. But the film would give us a glimpse of what we were about to experience ourselves.
Self-Quarantined for the Holidays is also set during its subjects’ new year. Americans are past the point of our New Year’s Day, but we are coming up on some big national holidays, namely Memorial Day and Independence Day, the latter of which would especially be comparable to the Persian New Year and Chinese New Year, given its association with fireworks as well as some more culturally specific traditions.
Holidays are times of getting together with family and friends, so it makes sense that films centered around people forced to live under house arrest and self-isolation are more affecting when they’re set amidst the backdrop of days meant for festivities. Perhaps the version of Self-Quarantined for the Holidays and Our Iranian Lockdown made by American documentarians will be shot over the July 4th weekend.
Watch Our Iranian Lockdown via Guardian Documentaries below and read more about the film here.