On Tuesday night at the Berlin Film Festival, the Iranian director Jafar Panahi will debut his new movie “Closed Curtain.” Panahi himself won’t be there to present it, of course; he remains under house arrest in Iran, and the premiere is scheduled to be anchored by Kamboziya Partovi, Panahi's actor and co-director.
Since being sentenced to a 20-year filmmaking and publicity ban in late 2010, Panahi has been downright prolific. While many bans tend to have a paradoxically healthy effect on filmmaking, in Panahi’s case it’s been something of an IV injection.
The auteur first completed “This Is Not A Film,” a piece of anti-cinema premiering at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival that took viewers behind the director’s life as an artistic pariah and both confronted and subverted the ban. (The movie was well-received by critics and shortlisted for the documentary Oscar category this year.)
Then, last year, the decorated director of “The White Balloon” and “Offside" set out to make a new film. According to a person familiar with the effort who asked for anonymity because of Panahi’s sensitive security situation, “Closed Curtain” (a switch from an earlier working title of “The Veil”), centers on an isolated man who is taking care of an abandoned dog --in itself a subversion since dogs are considered unclean by many in Islam. (The canine also can be read as a symbolism of a brutalized Iranian people, though Panahi is too smart and subtle to make that point overtly. Ditto for the title.)