RIP Abbas Kiarostami: Highly Acclaimed Iranian Filmmaker Dies Aged 76

Abbas Kiarostami, one of the most highly acclaimed filmmakers in the world, died today at the age of 76. The Iranian director was apparently undergoing treatment for gastrointestinal cancer in a hospital in Paris, France, a claim denied by his own doctors.

He was diagnosed with the disease in March when he reportedly fell into a coma. A report by the Iranian Student News Agency states that Kiarostami’s body will be transferred to Iran. He was survived by two sons, Ahmad Kiarostami, who works in multimedia and Bahman Kiarostami, a documentary filmmaker.

Kiarostami is known for his 1997 film Taste of Cherry, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Jean-Luc Godard, a renowned French film director, screenwriter, and film critic, once famously said, “Film begins with DW Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami.”

The Guardian spoke to Asghar Farhadi, an Oscar-winning filmmaker and a friend of Kiarostami’s. A sad Farhad spoke about his friend’s death.

“He wasn’t just a film-maker. 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.”

In a separate post, the Guardian eloquently describes Kiarostami as a filmmaker and talks about his work.

“Abbas Kiarostami was a mysterious and delicate fabulist of human nature and human relations, a film-maker whose stories were somehow in, but not of, the real world. His movies didn’t render up their meaning easily; they were replete with meditative calm, sadness, reflection, but also dissent, obliquely stylised confrontation and emotional negotiation – as well as his own elusive kind of playful humour.”

Kiarostami was born in 1940 in Tehran. After studying painting at the University of Tehran, he later worked as a graphic designer and commercial director. Kiarostami started his filmmaker career when he took a job in the film department at Kanun (the Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults).

Abbas Kiarostami at movie premiere
He made his first feature film, The Report, in 1977. Two years after the release of the movie, in 1979, the Khomeini revolution in Iran caused a lot of Iranian filmmakers to flee the country due to rampant censorship. However, Kiarostami stayed in Iran and worked around the censorship by re-working his films.

He explained, “A tree that is rooted in the ground. [If you] transfer it from one place to another, the tree will no longer bear fruit, If I had left my country, I would be the same as the tree.”

It was in the late 80s that Kiarostami won international acclaim and established his style as a director, particularly for his Koker trilogy. The first movie in the trilogy was Where Is the Friend’s Home?, which was released in 1987. This movie won the Bronze Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival for Kiarostami. He also made Life, And Nothing More… in 1992 — a movie that transcended conventional genres and blended fiction and documentary. Kiarostami completed the trilogy with Through the Olive Trees in 1994.

While he was filming this trilogy, Kiarostami had to flee Iran in 1989 because it had become very hostile. He was recognised as an auteur in 1997 when he released his seventh feature film, Taste of Cherry, which was the study of a man searching for someone to help him commit suicide.

He continued to make films after winning the Palme d’Or, jointly, with The Eel, which was directed by Shohei Imamura. He also made documentaries, including ABC Africa and 10 on Ten. Kiarostami also made feature films like Certified Copy, Shirin, and Like Someone in Love. After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rise to power, filming in Iran was becoming increasingly difficult. He filmed Certified Copy in Italy and Like Someone In Love in Japan. Kiarostami was asked to join the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences along with 683 other filmmakers only last week.

[Photo by Matt Sayles/AP Images]