I refer readers to other comments for more details on the story line itself.
I want to add however although this movie is presented in cinema 'vérité' style (meaning wanting to give the viewer the impression that what is shown is simply reality itself -for instance like the most famous example 'The Blair Witch Project'- the entire movie is however scripted with anonymous actors.
But, this is also the drawback. Although as a viewer one expects to see real life situations as they would have been filmed on the fly while the director picks up random passengers calling a cab, all scenes are an act and one can not feel but a slight disappointment when the illusion is revealed.
Like another reviewer points out correctly; some of the stories, especially the lighter ones in which the director doesn't directly seek to comment or criticize the regime in Iran are funny but feel as a warming up and slightly out of place or only as a counterbalance for the more full on portrayal of what is 'really' happening in Teheran.
It's only from the second act (portraying how all kinds of imposed restrictions and censorship from a government lead to a black market and circumventing censorship) and the dialog with the child that has to meet the same restrictions posed on film-making for an assignment like the director needs to oblige to, the movie becomes a direct statement and outcry for the freedom of thought and expression.
Personally I think that the movie, if it would have been truly a documentary with real passengers, it might even have been a stronger piece of capturing reality. But probably this approach would have been far too dangerous, as the privacy of the passengers would have been breached which might be very dangerous in a clear dictatorship like in Iran.
Now, with a scripted movie sometimes it comes across as a director showing a clear 'see, I can still make movies' to the government that imprisoned him for making movies. I wonder how Iranian government will react when they surely will find out that the director made another one.
Much of the appeal and the praise for the movie can be seen as applauding for the clear message in the film, which is all about the right to question an opposed reality. One can not help feel sorry for imprisoned artists, no matter where. Europeans and Americans might applaud this movie the loudest, but the Edward Snowden or Julian Assange story shows that this movie is not only about the Teheran situation.
Propaganda happens everywhere: be it in Teheran, Islamic countries in general or in western consumerism and capitalism countries.
Most governments try to portray a positive view about one's own culture ('The American Dream', 'Freedom of expression'), head into war either praying to Allah, God or other metaphysical spirits for good luck and strive to export their cultural values elsewhere, at the same time alienating cultures which hold other values.
In Teheran filmmakers can not show men wearing a tie, which might seam strange and unsettling to westerners, but from a Teheran culture point of view, the tie is a sexual symbol pointing to the genitals. As such, one can also ridicule the western view in which men are obliged to wear a tie as dress code, which biologically is nothing but an arrow pointing to one's genitals. Now, how strange is that?
The director however does a very good job of portraying to which surreal situations censorship may lead. Purely technical and from a script point of view it is certainly not a brilliant movie, the loud applause and praise comes from those who are very much into the 'freedom of expression' propaganda and the idea of filming an entire movie in a cab has been done before.
Never the less, it is a must see movie, because it drags the viewers as peeping Tom's into a culture that may vastly differ from their own. One might find that people from other cultures and convictions are first and foremost human.
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