Abbas Kiarostami, Award-Winning Iranian Film Director, Dies At 76

Award-winning Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami has died in Paris aged 76, Iranian news agencies report.

He had been undergoing hospital treatment in France for cancer.

Kiarostami stayed in Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and made more than 40 films, including documentaries. He won the Palme D’Or, the top prize at Cannes, with his 1997 film Taste of Cherry.

But he shot his last two films outside the country.

Kiarostami was hugely influential in world cinema. The French-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard is reputed to have said: “Film begins with DW Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami.”

He was the only Iranian to ever win the Palme D’Or.

Taste of Cherry was a minimalist film about a man looking for someone to bury him after his suicide. It examined Iranian civic and religious attitudes of the time.

For a long time we thought that he was talking on our behalf – on behalf of the Iranians – and he was basically our best representative of everything that is good about Iranian life and culture.

Unfortunately, Iran hasn’t been enjoying the best image in terms of how the rest of the world thinks about Iran, so we would always go to people like Mr Kiarostami, who would take pride in his work and how he was representing the Iranians.

I would say since his success in winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1997, he became one of the greatest filmmakers in the world. I mean, people in the rest of the world started to relate to him and relate to what his movies presented – basically the antithesis of the Hollywood movies.

His work was a breath of fresh air in international cinema.

My friend, the auteur

His film Ten was also nominated for a Palme D’Or. Shot on two digital cameras attached to a car, it followed a woman driving around Tehran with various passengers and explored social issues around the role of women.

In 2005 he teamed up with the British director Ken Loach and the Italian filmmaker Ermanno Olmo to make a three-part film called Tickets.

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‘A towering figure of world cinema’: Iranian social media reaction

Iranian social media is awash with tributes to Kiarostiami from officials and film fans alike.

President Hassan Rouhani said “Abbas Kiarostami’s deep and unique view on life and his call to human beings for peace and friendship will remain a lasting achievement.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called him “a towering figure of world cinema,” while an official at the Iranian foreign ministry said he “gave Iranian cinema a new identity”.

Iranian-American actor, screenwriter and director Peyman Maady quoted French director Jean-Luc Godard in saying “cinema begins with [Hollywood pioneer] D W Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami”.

Iranian news agency ISNA has reported that cinemas across the country will hold a moment of silence this evening to pay tribute to Kiarostami.

US director Martin Scorsese said Kiarostami was “a very special human being: quiet, elegant, modest, articulate and quite observant.

“He was a true gentleman and, truly, one of our great artists.”

The New York cinema magazine The Film Stage tweeted that “the world may have lost its greatest filmmaker”.

The British Film Institute tweeted that it was “saddened” at the news, while the Telegraph’s film critic Robbie Collin called him a “miracle worker disguised as a close-up magician”.

In his own words

On fiction vs documentary: “I believe there’s only good cinema and bad cinema. Good cinema is what we can believe and bad cinema is what we can’t believe.”

Asked how Iranian cinema kept its identity: “I believe this is our only chance to speak outwardly… Iranian cinema has always maintained its style, one, because of the want of its directors and another, because of the chance that it has been given in world cinema.”

His advice to young filmmakers: “A suggestion that I often give is if you have a special taste or a special style you have to be independent of the capital and of industry and you have to keep your independence, otherwise industry will only produce more of itself.”



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