A new movie from dissident Iranian director Jafar Panahi, which defies a ban on filmmaking and reflects his frustration at being unable to work officially, makes its debut at the Berlin film festival Tuesday.

Closed Curtain is co-directed by Panahi and his fellow Iranian filmmaker and longtime friend, Kamboziya Partovi. Panahi, who has won awards at several major film festivals in the past, was sentenced to house arrest and a 20-year ban on filmmaking in 2010 after being convicted of "making propaganda" against Iran's ruling system.


A protester stands next to a portrait of dissident Iranian director Jafar Panahi prior to the screening of his new movie Closed Curtain at the Berlin International Film Festival on Tuesday. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa/Associated Press)

Partovi presented the movie at the Berlin festival, where it's one of 19 films competing for the top Golden Bear award.

The new film, made by a very small team, is filmed entirely inside an isolated seaside villa, much of the time with the curtains drawn.

The two directors are the lead actors: Partovi playing an increasingly paranoid man trapped in the house as police search the area, and Panahi playing himself as the director of that story.

Scenes with the curtains open were "shot at the very end so we didn't get into trouble," Partovi said.

'It's very difficult not to work'

Festival officials say Panahi is no longer confined to his home but still isn't supposed to make films. The German government says it asked Iran to allow Panahi to travel to Berlin for the premiere; there has been no word on any response.

"It's very difficult not to work ... you become depressed," Partovi told reporters, speaking through an interpreter. "For him, it became very difficult just to sit around at home."

He added that he didn't know what, if any, consequences making the film might have.

"Nothing has happened up to now," he said. But "we don't know what the future holds in store for us."

Closed Curtain contrasts with earlier Panahi films such as the exuberant Offside, a movie following girls who disguise themselves as boys to sneak into a football match in Tehran. It won Berlin's runner-up Silver Bear in 2006.

The new movie follows This Is Not A Film, a2011 documentary that Panahi made in his Tehran apartment, where he was under house arrest.

That reflects his predicament, Partovi said. "If he's no longer allowed to speak about others and other people's lives, then he has to talk about himself."