I don't want to see stores looted or buildings burned; but African- Americans have been living in burning buildings for years, choking on smoke as flames burn closer and closer.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.  – Malcolm X

"We must never, ever give up. We must be brave. We must be courageous." John Lewis, activist, congressman. 1940-2020 

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."  Professor Cornel West.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat."  Audre Lorde

"The serious function of racism is distraction". 1995, Toni Morrison; Portland lecture, Playing in The Dark

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.” Nora Ephron

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

"We are more alike than we are different" ~ Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singe


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain


You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore


 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:


"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.


Jafar Panahi's "This is Not A Film"


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

“This is Not A Film” is a courageous, almost cunning, sometimes humorous document by Jafar Panahi, a man who cannot be silenced. Panahi is a well known and accomplished Iranian filmmaker and, we learn in this production, an irrepressible character.

Foolishly the Iranian government arrested him and banned him from producing further films. Thus the tile of this production.  on his work. (Panahi has avoided jail, for now, but lives in virtual house arrest, unable to do what he most loves—make films. But that doesn’t stop him from holding a camera.) With his friend and co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, from within his living room, Panahi has produced something of a masterpiece in my opinion.

I have just previewed a newly released video documentary of this man’s modest attempt to survive as an artist. With his cell phone video and a professional camera sitting on a table in his apartment, Panahi shows us his present predicament. He informs us of his punishment, demonstrates his essence as a filmmaker, quietly assuring us of his indefatigable spirit.

Seeing Panahi speaking by phone to his attorney we learn the status of his legal case. Watching him read and explain a script to visiting colleague Mirtahmasb (holding the camera), we feel his skill and passion as a film-maker. Following him, camera-in-his-hand, we meet his neighbors, feel his humanity, and admire his ability to make the most mundane encounter into a filmic delight. We sit with Panahi in his living-room, reviewing two of his earlier films. It’s all there--his past, his present and his future. (That is to say, future  success in resuming his work.).  Far from feeling pity or anger about Panahi’s political plight, we are reassured that this spirit and talent cannot be stifled.

This autobiographical document demonstrates the depth of this artist’s skill at capturing the candid moment, as he did in the wonderful early film “Mirror”. There, as a young director, Panahi follows the little girl actress who abruptly decides she no longer wants to act. She leaves the set (a city bus) and abandons the film-crew to make her way home alone by foot. Panahi seizes the moment and with camera, follows the child clandestinely through Tehran’s city streets. Her microphone still intact, we hear her candid dialogue with people she encounters as she tries to find her house. That simple episode, Panahi made into an extraordinary film. (Look for it.) And Panahi’s latest document –not a film—captures this artist’s same sensibility.

How much editing was done on this new ‘document’ we do not know. The story seems to take place within a single day, beginning with his breakfast and ending with his night shots of Tehran’s New Year fireworks from his balcony. Jafar Panahi is just shooting whatever is around him. But being a master of the unrehearsed unplanned moment, he transforms it into art.

As with so many Middle Eastern stories, this is slow moving. And, as often happens when an artist faces government censorship, US press reviews of “This is Not A Film” overemphasize hardships confronting foreign directors. I fear that in a country, in this case Iran which most Americans view so negatively, many of those  attending the showing will find in it yet another reason they would be happy to see this country, one that has produced so many fine filmmakers, attacked by US bombers. One hopes theater goers will take the time to reflect on the creative, deeply Iranian spirit exhibited in this document.

Still, one cannot help deny the reality of Panahi’s situation. After all, he purposefully produced this to inform the international community about his political condition. If I were on the Iranian film board censorship panel, I would be proud of him.

The film opens to its US theatrical premier at New York City’s Film Forum February 29th.


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