Acclaimed, award-winning Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has died aged 76, after a prolific and esteemed career in film spanning half a century.
Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes a total of ten times throughout his career, he walked away with the highest accolade in 1997 for his elegiac tale of a man searching for someone to bury him after his impending death. Shot predominantly through long takes, and lengthy speechless scenes, the minimalism of Taste of Cherry proved polarising. He would go on to be one the most critically debated, and academically discussed filmmakers of his generation.
Many of his works are considered by critics to be masterpieces, depicting naturalistic stories of people living in contemporary Iran, such as Through the Oliver Trees, The Wind Will Carry Us and Where is my Friend’s Home?, often concerned with the complexities of life and death and living. With a penchant for short films he contributed numerous segments to high-profile anthologies like Tickets alongside Ken Loach and Ermanno Olmi, Ten, Lumiere and Company and Cannes Film Festival’s 60th anniversary celebratory commission: Chacun son cinéma (To Each His Own Cinema).
A pioneer of the Iranian New Wave, Kiarostami was far more than a film director. He took on the roles of screenwriter, producer, editor and art director for a vast number of films. He tried his hand at painting, photography and graphic design, designing many of the credit titles and posters for his films.
His later years and final two films took him to shoot outside Iran for the first time, a result of the growing unrest in his homeland.
His 2010 collaboration with iconic French actress and close friend Juliette Binoche took him to Tuscany for an ambiguous yet naturalistic romantic comedy about two strangers getting to know one another, but who may have been married for 15 years. It won them both further acclaim on the festival circuit, with Kiarostami receiving a further nomination to Palme d’Or selection and Binoche picking up a Best Actress win.
His final film, 2012’s Like Someone in Love took him to shoot in Japan. With undertones of encroaching darkness, his final work is a poignant lullaby telling the story of a fledging friendship between a high-end prostitute and a lonely, elderly university professor. A year later, Kiarostami received a Medal of Honour for his body of work from the Japanese government.
Last week, shortly before his death, Kiarostami was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is survived by two sons – documentary filmmaker Bahman Kiarostami and media publisher Ahmad Kiarostami – and his prolific canon of features, shorts and documentaries.