Abbas Kiarostami, Giant of International Cinema, Dies at 76
Tragic news via The Guardian: Abbas Kiarostami, one of the greatest filmmakers of my lifetime — or anyone’s lifetime — has died. Kiarostami was undergoing treatment for gastrointestinal cancer; he had been diagnosed with the disease in March of 2016. Kiarostami was 76 years old.
Kiarostami was born in 1940 and originally studied to be a painter. Through the 1960s he worked in advertising and poster design. He moved into filmmaking in the 1970s; his first film, Report, debuted in 1977. He came to wider international attention in the late 1980s with his “Koker trilogy” of films about life in contemporary Iran; Where Is Friend’s Home?, Life, and Nothing More..., and Through the Olive Trees. As a director, he was best known for movies that brilliantly blurred the line between fiction and reality, like his 1990 masterpiece Close-Up, about the trial of a man who impersonated one of Kiarostami’s filmmaking colleagues, Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Kiarostami cast all the major players in the real-life drama as themselves and recreated the true events in reenactments. (If you haven’t seen it, or just want to revisit it, Close-Up is currently available on Hulu.)
Kiarostami’s last completed film was 2012’s Like Someone in Love; his last truly great film was 2010’s Certified Copy, a fascinating portrait and puzzle of a relationship between a man, played by William Shimell, and a woman, played by Juliette Binoche. Fellow Iranian filmmaker and director of A Separation Asghar Farhadi said of Kiarostami in The Guardian:
“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.”
It truly has. Kiarostami was one of the most important figures in the history of Iranian cinema, but he’s also a hugely influential player in the history of world cinema. It seems sadly fitting he died on American Independence Day. When I think of great filmmakers who were truly independent — who made the movies they wanted in sometimes difficult and restrictive circumstances, who heeded only their own artistic calling —I will always think of Abbas Kiarostami. He will be deeply missed.