“Abbas’ approach is that of a poet,” filmmaker, Victor Erice (1973’s The Spirit Of The Beehive), once told FilmInk of his friend and occasional collaborator, Abbas Kiarostami. “Not only in writing verse, but also in making movies, taking pictures, or creating video installations.” Abbas Kiarostami is a legend of the Iranian new wave. Highly acclaimed, all of his films – Close-Up, The Wind Will Carry Us, Safar, Tickets, Ten – boast a fine balance of lyricism and understated but telling insight into human nature. Kiarostami’s most famous work, Taste Of Cherry, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1998, and established him as a vital voice from a land not often heard on the world stage. His ability to find the resonant human core of simple stories marked him as both a great artist and a great humanist.
Abbas Kiarostami was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1940. He graduated from university with a degree in fine arts before starting work as a graphic designer. He then joined The Centre For Intellectual Development Of Children And Young Adults, where he started a film section, which prompted his burgeoning career as a filmmaker at the age of 30. He would soon become one of the most important figures in contemporary Iranian film, as well as a major figure in the arts world. As well as his impressive film resume, Kiarostami had numerous gallery exhibitions of his photography, short films, and poetry. He also had many famous fans, including French actress, Juliette Binoche, with whom he worked on the 2010 drama, Certified Copy. “I had met with Abbas quite briefly at festivals, and I always loved to tell him, ‘We must work together,’ the actress told FilmInk. “That thought probably stayed with him. He was one of the directors that I had really admired, but when he asked me to come to Tehran, I was wondering how I could do that with all the western-made problems there. Then six months later, I had some spare time, and I thought that he had invited me and that maybe I should go. So I did, and we developed a wonderful friendship.”
Juliette Binoche revealed something else to FilmInk of Abbas Kiarostami: the importance of parenting to him, a theme which would wind its way into many of his films. “He often features children in his films,” the actress said in 2010. “He has been raising his children on his own. In Iran, there is a law that when two people divorce, the children go to the man. Abbas told me that that was such a difficult time for him. He loved it in one way. He loved cooking for his children and taking them to school and helping with their homework and all of that. But raising a child on your own…it was such a difficult period for him.”
Abbas Kiarostami – who passed away in Paris, where he was being treated for gastrointestinal cancer – will be sorely and sadly missed. “Film begins with D.W. Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami,” said the great Jean-Luc Godard, while according to Martin Scorsese, “Kiarostami represents the highest level of artistry in the cinema.” A humble and quiet man, Abbas Kiarostami responded with characteristic charm when these quotes were actually put to him. “This admiration is perhaps more appropriate after I am dead,” he said, which certainly provides us all with license to reflect on and celebrate the extraordinary cinematic legacy that Abbas Kiarostami leaves behind…