Banned filmmaker Panahi's taxi-eye view of Tehran shown in Berlin

Fri Feb 6, 2015 1:53pm EST
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By Michael Roddy

BERLIN (Reuters) - Banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who has defied the authorities before by smuggling a film out of Iran, did it again at the Berlin International Film Festival on Friday with his film "Taxi".

The superficially whimsical but ultimately profound look at life and filmmaking in Iran, shot from the interior of a taxi with the director at the wheel, was shown despite a 20-year state ban imposed on Panahi.

He is not under arrest but can be jailed by the judiciary at any time. Two years ago he smuggled a movie to the Berlin festival on a USB drive, eliciting a protest to the festival from the Islamic Republic.

At Friday's premiere, festival director Dieter Kosslick was not saying how Panahi's film made it to the German capital, but he applauded his decision to continue making movies.

"Jafar never accepted his 20-year ban and tried to make his work because he cannot live without making films, and by accident we got this film here, maybe with a taxi?" Kosslick said, tongue-in-cheek, to reporters on the red carpet.

In the film, Panahi chauffeurs an odd assortment of people around Tehran, including two women who think they will die if they do not get two goldfish to the Ali Springs before noon.

A male passenger who admits he is a "freelance mugger" argues in favor of the death penalty for criminals with a woman teacher in the backseat who thinks capital punishment is too severe for someone who steals to feed his family - and says only China executes more people than Iran.

A girl playing Panahi's niece tells her uncle after he picks her up from school that her teacher has told her the rules for making a "distributable film" in Iran. It cannot show anything sordid - which is what Panahi has been filming from his taxi - and the characters must be named after Islamic saints.   Continued...

Jury member Shirin Neshat stands next to the picture of director Jafar Panahi before presenting his co-director Kamboziya Partovi with a Silver Bear award for Best Script in film "Parde" (Closed Curtain) during the awards ceremony at the 63rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 16, 2013. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/Files