A love letter to cinema, shot across the US, Iran, Chile, China and Thailand, by seven of today’s most vital filmmakers. New life in the old house. A breakaway, a reunion. Surveillance and reconciliation. An unrecognizable world, in the year of the everlasting storm.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, film production came to a halt in March of 2020 and filmmakers across the world were confined to their homes.
The work and daily life of the film industry and film culture were destabilized. In a few short weeks, modes of socializing, working, and consuming were radically altered. Filmmaking as we knew it had reached a standstill, deemed unsafe indefinitely.
In 2011, Jafar Panâhi made This Is Not A Film while under a state-imposed stay-at-home order, forbidden from writing screenplays or directing films. Panâhi found an innovative and audacious way to comment on the circumstances and absurdity of his confinement.
Co-directing inside his Tehran apartment with Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Panâhi eliminated all but the essential modes of filmmaking to connect, collaborate, and create in the face of limitation and an uncertain future. The result, This Is Not A Film, is a beguiling, self-reflexive statement on the enduring spirit of artists.
Inspired by Panâhi’s creativity and ingenuity in his unique circumstances, my colleagues and I wanted to challenge artists around the world to reimagine the boundaries of filmmaking and film production and embrace limitations to tell diverse, personal stories that reflect and respond to this moment of distance and isolation.
Our initial approach was to Panâhi himself, who without hesitation agreed to executive produce the film. He couldn’t promise a film, however. (He submitted a film one month later.)
We developed a set of rules that were intended to reflect the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)’s guidance at the time:
1. Shooting will be confined to the location of filmmaker quarantine. Filmmakers may not shoot in public spaces.
2. On-set cast and crew will be limited to those in quarantine on location.
3. Props, costumes, and production equipment will be limited to those onsite.
4. All genres and modes of filmmaking are encouraged but temporal and geographic
continuity must be maintained. Fiction films must be written in the present. Non-fiction films must document this moment. Animation, archival and browser action are all permitted, as long as there is evidence within the film that it takes place in the here and now.
5. Production and post-production crew members will work from home. Any collaboration with those not on location must be engaged remotely.
As we signed up our filmmakers and began developing their ideas with them over the course of the summer of 2020, the ground of the pandemic began to shift underneath us, along with the scientific community’s guidance. We quickly realized that each country we were working in had its own approach to the pandemic. The CDC, whose guidance we had originally used to develop our rules, was a United States government agency, exposing our own bias as American producers. And even within each country, nothing was static. Some of the original rules no longer made sense.
Much like every individual during this pandemic, we quickly found ourselves in a position to arbitrate between which rules could be broken and which could not. In life, rules are broken for reasons both practical and poetic. In art, it is the same.
Director, writer and
producer from Iran
After several short films and documentaries, he directed his first feature THE WHITE BALLOON (Badkonake Sefid) which premiered in 1977 in Cannes’ Directors Fortnight and won the Camera d’Or. THE MIRROR (Ayneh) premiered in 2000 in Locarno and won the Golden Leopard. ‘THE CIRCLE’ (Dayereh) premiered in 2003 In Venice and won the Golden Lion. CRIMSON GOLD (Talayeh Sorkh) premiered in Un Certain Regard in Cannes and won The Jury Prize. OFFSIDE premiered in 2010 in Berlin and won the Silver Bear for Best Director. THIS IS NOT A FILM (in film nist) premiered in 2012 in Cannes Official Selection in Special Screening. CLOSED CURTAIN (pardé) premiered in 2013 in Berlin and won the Silver Bear for Best Script. TAXI premiered in 2015 in Berlin and won the Golden Bear Award. 3 FACES premiered in Cannes in 2018 and won the Best Screenplay Award.
Jafar Panahi’s films are known for portraying realistic images of the Iranian society, causing them to be banned from the screen in Iran.
In fact only his first film THE WHITE BALLOON has been granted the screening license in Iran.
Panahi was arrested twice. The second time for 86 days when finally the Iranian government pressured by the solidarity of international film festivals, artists and well known film makers and his hunger strike realeased him on bail.
According to the final judgment by the court Jafar Panahi was Condemned to 20 years ban on film making, script writing, traveling outside of the country and giving interviews. If one of these cases would occur he could be Condemned to 6 years prison.
That’s why his past three films were made without authorization.
Panahi has won a number of human right prizes, such as the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and The Medal of Art for Freedom.
Writer, director and producer from Singapore
Anthony Chen is a writer, director and producer from Singapore. Trained at film school in Singapore and then at the National Film and Television School in the UK. He is the first Singaporean to be awarded at Cannes with his 2007 short, AH MA.
After a string of award-winning shorts, his debut feature ILO ILO (2013), premiered at the 66th Cannes Film Festival and was awarded the Camera d’Or, making history again as the first Singapore feature to be awarded at Cannes. ILO ILO went on to win 40 awards internationally and sold to over 30 countries, becoming the most successful arthouse film in the history of Singapore cinema, both commercially and critically.
Chen’s latest film, WET SEASON (2019), premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was once again critically lauded, garnering twelve awards. It was Singapore’s submission to the Academy Awards for Best International Film.
Writer director from USA
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Malik Vitthal graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He co-wrote his feature directorial debut Imperial Dreams, which was developed at the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab and the Jerusalem International Film Lab. Imperial Dreams premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award: Best of NEXT <=>. Vitthal's second film, Body Cam was released by Paramount Pictures.
Writer director from USA
Laura Poitras is a filmmaker, journalist, and artist. Her film CITIZENFOUR won an Oscar for Best Documentary, along with awards from BAFTA, Emmys, and the Directors Guild of America. Her reporting on the NSA and Edward Snowden received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Part one of the trilogy, Academy Award-nominated My Country, My Country about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, premiered at the Berlinale. Part two, The Oath, on Guantanamo Bay Prison and the war on terror, also screened at the Berlinale. She is the recipient of a MacArthur fellowship, and many other awards including a Peabody, Independent Spirit, and two Gotham awards. She was placed on a U.S. government terrorist watchlist in 2006 because of her work documenting post-9/11 America. In 2015, she filed a successful lawsuit to obtain her classified FBI files.
Writer director from Chile
Dominga Sotomayor (*1985, Santiago de Chile) is a writer director, co-founder of the production company CINESTACIóN and CCC, Centro de Cine y Creación, a new arthouse cinema and center in Santiago. Her first feature film “Thursday till Sunday” was developed at the Cannes Cinéfondation Residence and won the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2012. In 2013 she co- directed the shortfilm “The island” that also won the Tiger Award at Rotterdam. In 2015, she premiered “Mar” at the Berlinale Forum and co-directed the collective film “Here in Lisbon” in Portugal. For her last film “Too Late To Die Young” (2018) she became the first woman to receive the Leopard for Best Direction at Locarno Film Festival. She has made videos and photographs for exhibitions like “Little Sun” (Olafur Eliasson) at Tate Modern 2012. Currently she is Visitor Professor in the Department of Art, Film and Visual Studies at Harvard University.
Writer director from USA
David Lowery is a writer / director whose films include Pioneer, A Ghost Story, The Green Knight, Pete's Dragon and Peter Pan & Wendy.
Writer director from Thailand
Apichatpong grew up in Khon Kaen in north-eastern Thailand. He began making film and video shorts in 1994, and completed his first feature in 2000. He has also mounted exhibitions and installations in many countries since 1998. Often non-linear, with a strong sense of dislocation, his works deal with memory, subtly addressed personal politics and social issues. His art projects and feature films have won him widespread recognition and numerous festival prizes, including two prizes (Special Jury Prize, and Palme d’Or) from the Cannes Film Festival. In 2012, he is invited to participate in Documenta (13), one of the most well-known art exhibitions in Kassel, Germany. In 2016, a retrospective of his films was presented at Tate Modern, London. He was the Principal Laureate of the 2016 Prince Claus Awards, the Netherlands. In 2019, Apichatpong was awarded the Artes Mundi prize, the UK's largest prize for international contemporary art. His on-going project includes Fever Room, a projection performance about displaced consciousness. It has been presented at Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels (2016), Festival d’Automne, Paris (2016), Volksbühne, Berlin (2017), Wiener Festwochen, Vienna (2019), among others. Since 2016, a large scale retrospective of his visual artworks has been held at various countries, starting at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, Chiang Mai, The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), Manila, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and Taipei Fine Arts Museum. His latest film in 2021, Memoria, sets in Colombia and features an actress Tilda Swinton. Apichatpong lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Producer: Brad Becker-Parton
Original title: The Year of the Everlasting Storm