Abbas Kiarostami

The art of Abbas Kiarostami is the art of looking and seeing. In film after film, we watch the landscape change through the window of a moving car, the bustle of life play out on the fringes of action and, most importantly, of the person emerge from underneath the character. His films have only the barest of plots and, in the best of his work, only slivers of stories by the standards of western cinema. That’s merely an illusion, for Kiarostami’s cinema is rich in stories, some only touched, others simply hinted at, but all of them vital.

Born in 1940 in Tehran, Kiarostami started making films in 1970 though his career consisted largely of shorts and educational documentaries until WHERE IS THE FRIEND'S HOME (1987). A simple story of children, like so many of the Iranian films made in the years after the revolution, the film avoids politics but creates a panorama of life lived in Iran. And as in subsequent films, it is cast with non-professionals. The acting is not really realistic but rather akin to watching real people “play” themselves in a documentary, so aware of the camera that they perform to it.

His style only became more complex and rich with his following films. With CLOSE-UP, the true story of a movie-mad unemployed printer arrested for impersonating the famous Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, he recreated the event with the actual participants playing fictionalized recreations. The seeming simplicity of technique gives way to a remarkable complexity that he pushes further with LIFE AND NOTHING MORE (1992), THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES (1995) and A TASTE OF CHERRY (1997), which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. After THE WIND WILL CARRY US (1999), he turned to more experimental projects, including TEN (2002) and SHIRIN (2008), before returning to more familiar narrative storytelling with CERTIFIED COPY (2010), starring Juliette Binoche (his first feature with a major star). He also wrote two films for fellow Iranian director Jafar Panahi, including THE WHITE BALLOON (1995).

“We can never get close to the truth except through lying,” maintains Kiarostami and, in his multi-faceted layering of reality and fiction, he comes closer than any director in revealing the truth of the human soul. Under the directness and deceptive simplicity of his style are pure, unconditional, humanistic moments with simple, silent, open-ended conclusions that are some of the most sublime moments in modern cinema.
– Sean Axmaker


Recent Reviews


Another unique and exceptional conceptual film by Abbas Kiarostami. This film tells the ancient story through film dialogue heard, and the reactions of audience members in an Iranian cinema. I...


lots of faces


This film and its author are no short of brilliant.


Lovely way to experience an epic poem --- each woman's facial expression, coupled with the mental images created by the subtitles, brought the work to life in a way that...