vieled roots

In order to be universal, you have to be rooted in your own culture. – Abbas Kiarostami:
A filmmaker who offered audiences, especially those in the West, a window into life in Iran. A filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami always seemed to have an incredible knack of creating the maximum impact with minimal resources. At first glance, his stories seem simple, but that was a veil he used to mask the complex and complicated questions he posed about Iranian society.
Kiarostami offered audiences, especially those in the West, a window into life in Iran, when for the most part the media and governments were bombarding us with stories about madcap Ayatollahs and fatwas. The films were imbued with criticism of the governments, but were crafted to also allow him to work within the confines of Iranian censorship. The director never went into exile, unlike many of his filmmaking contemporaries, yet this did not stop him from posing the tough questions. It’s rare that a director gets to start his own film wave, where a group of contemporaries follow an artist’s lead, continuing to make work in his style and form. For a time in the 1980s and ’90s, the Iranian New Wave was the envy of the world, and Kiarostami the first among equals. Abbas Kiarostami began making films in 1970 and Continued working in his homeland after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He helped make Iranian filmmaking a major international force, despite leaving Iran only twice to make movies. Kiarostami stepped onto the world stage in 1990 with Close-Up, a film that was praised by the likes of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.
Several years later, he shared the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival with 1997’s Taste of Cherry. But according to film critic Godfrey Cheshire, Kiarostami’s situation was complicated. Cheshire has written a lot about pre- and post-revolution Iranian cinema and got to know the filmmaker personally.
Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. It follows a man (Homayoun Ershadi) who is contemplating suicide and drives around Tehran looking for someone to bury him. Abbas Kiarostami/The Kobal Collection “Kiarostami had support from the government at really the highest levels, in some cases — ministers were backing him and trying to help him,”
Cheshire says. “And then he had these hard-liners that were pushing against him and restricting his access to materials, etc. So it was a real back and forth throughout his career.” Cheshire says the government understood the international prestige Kiarostami could bring, but he still ran into problems with censors. Single handedly he put Iran on the map of world cinema. Reframing the world and the relationships between individuals through both his creative involvement with actors – often amateurs, often children – and his eye for the beauty of landscapes, Kiarostami produced philosophical works that reinvigorated the genres of documentary and narrative fiction, often blurring the lines between the two, as best shown in Close-up (1990). He translated the traditions of oral storytelling and epic poetry, as well as the modesty of Persian architecture, into a distinctive screen vision, and from the 1990s onwards his model for creating substantial works on slender resources was recognized and embraced by filmmakers from Asia to South America.
Themes of life and death and the concepts of change and continuity play a major role in Kiarostami’s works. In the Koker trilogy, for example, we see an ongoing life force in the face of death and destruction, and the power of human resilience to overcome and defy death. The film is set in the aftermath of the 1990 Tehran earthquake. Kiarostami expressed how important these themes are in his films, particularly in the film Life, and Nothing more…, directed soon after the disaster:            Kiarostami’s cinema celebrates the economy of film language and offers an alternative to the fancy, excessive mainstream cinema. A controversial characteristic of his films is how they encourage the audience to reflect and creatively participate in them. His films challenge viewers’ stereotypes and make them aware of their own blind spots. A refreshing experience of watching Kiarostami’s films is how they resist giving an expected, homogeneous, or exotic “third-world” image of Iranian culture to the audience. Each of his films, even those that are shot in the remote rural areas of Iran, reflects McLuhan’s concept of the “global village” and our disillusion of the image of “self” as separate, immune, and distant from the “other”.


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