Abbas Kiarostami… Requiem for Iran’s icon of contemporary cinema
His transition last July 4 at a relatively ripe age of 76 left a vacuum not only on the landscape of Iranian cinematography, but the world cinematic culture. The internationally-acclaimed film director of Iran extraction, Abbas Kiarostami passed away in France where he had been receiving treatment for cancer.
The 76-year-old award-winning scholar succumbed to a stroke in Paris on Monday, July 4 2016, a few days after leaving Tehran. In March 2016, Kiarostami was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, following which he underwent a series of operations.
Following the news of his death, the New York-based cinema magazine, The Film Stage said, “the world may have lost its greatest filmmaker.” Known for their modest style, dark realism, and sly humor, his films were usually shot in real locations, and with the use of non-actors.
His film, The Wind Will Carry Us won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice film festival in 1999.
In 1997, Kiarostami’s film Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival.
In his late years, Kiarostami started to travel the world, making ‘Certified Copy’ in Italy and ‘Like Someone in Love’ in Japan.
Referring to his travels, he said he was attempting to make a narrative about “universal characters that can be accessible to everyone.”
In his tribute, Oscar-winning Iranian film-maker Asghar Farhadi said that he was shocked when he heard the news as he was due to fly to Paris to visit his old friend later that night.
“He wasn’t just a filmmaker,” said Farhadi. “He was a modern mystic, both in his cinema and his private life.
“He definitely paved ways for others and influenced a great deal of people. It’s not just the world of cinema that has lost a great man; the whole world has lost someone really great,” he added.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and top officials expressed their condolences over Kiarostami’s passage.
President Rouhani said on his Twitter page the following day, July 5, 2016, that Kiarostami’s “distinct and deep view to life and his invitation of humans to peace and friendship will be a lasting achievement” in cinema.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said on his Twitter page that with his death, Iran lost “a towering figure” in international cinema and expressed hope that the Almighty would receive him “in his infinite mercy.”
Chairman of the Expediency Council Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a message also offered his condolences on the departure of the award-winning Iranian film director.
“I was saddened by demise of the renowned and popular artist of our country late Abbas Kiarostami,” Ayatollah Rafsanjani said in his message.
“I extend my condolences to our country’s artistic community, his colleagues, friends and especially his relatives on the occasion of the death of this famous movie director who conveyed the message of peace and friendship of the Iranian people to the entire world,” he added.
Condolence messages also came from overseas especially European leaders such as French President François Hollande who described the deceased as a friend of France and a great artist. President Hollande praised the director for forging “close artistic ties and deep friendships” with France.
American director, Martin Scorsese also eulogized Kiarostami as “one of those rare artists with a special knowledge of the world.”
“Put into words by the great Jean Renoir: ‘Reality is always magic.’ For me, that statement sums up Kiarostami’s extraordinary body of work,” he added.
Abbas Kiarostami was born in 1940 in Tehran, and originally studied painting at the University of Tehran; he began working as a graphic designer and went on to shoot dozens of commercials for Iranian TV.
In 1969, he joined the Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults where he ran the film department, and was able to make his own films.
Kiarostami worked extensively as a screenwriter, film editor, art director and producer and designed credit titles and publicity material.
He was also a poet, photographer, painter, illustrator, and graphic designer.
He was part of a generation of filmmakers in the Iranian New Wave, a Persian cinema movement that started in the late 1960s and includes pioneering directors such as Masoud Kimiai, Sohrab Shahid Saless, Dariush Mehrjui, Bahram Beyzai, Nasser Taghvai and Parviz Kimiavi.
These filmmakers share many common techniques including the use of poetic dialogue and allegorical storytelling dealing with political and philosophical issues.