With a career that spans more than forty years Kiarostami has contributed to a wealth of films across the Iranian and global cinema; he is known for both his work in fiction and documentary cinema, his thematic and distinctive dialogue styles as well as his preferences toward the use of extended static camera work.
Kiarostami’s first film The Bread and the Alley was made as part of the newly established film making department at Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, the opening of which Kiarostami had played an integral role. The Bread and the Alley would set up some of the tropes audiences still find striking and familiar in Kiarostami’s work; the use of child protagonists and allegorical and metaphorical narratives that subtly comment on contemporary Iranian life and society.
These tropes are also some of those used by Kiarostami’s fellow New Wave film makers, such as Majid Majidi (Children of Heaven (1997), The Song of Sparrows (2008)) and Bahram Beizai (Bashu – the Little Stranger (1989)). This particular style of cinema often include narratives which blur the lines between fiction and reality, documentary style filming of narrative cinema, the use of allegory and metaphor to raise political or philosophical debates and casting of children and young adults in small, rural areas as central players. Such films are also often noted for their use of poetry as dialogue.
Kiarostami is not only known for his feature film work but also for his short films, such as the early 1970’s production the Traveller which used the determination of a young boy to watch his favourite football team play an important match in Tehran as an opportunity to discuss the a-moralist attitudes of governments and political parties. Such themes continued on into Kiarostami’s feature films which, as time progressed, gained more and more international notoriety and acclaim.
1990’s Close Up, a part documentary part constructed narrative film about a man who impersonates a famous director received overwhelming approval from both critics and audiences worldwide and the film repeatedly appears in top 100 Greatest Films lists; including being ranked #42 in the BFI’s Greatest Films of All Time.
A recurring theme of Kiarostami’s work is the parallels of life and death, his 1997 film Taste of Cherry / 10 on Ten tells the story of a man who is determined to commit suicide and his journey through an Iranian suburb to find someone suited to the task of burying him after he has died.
The film, which stars Homayoun Ershadi as the suicidal Mr. Baadi, is often cited as the epitome of Kiarostami’s film making style; captured largely through uninterrupted, long takes much of the film takes place in Baadi’s car. The film was awarded the Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.
Kiarostami’s more recent work has continued in this vein, 2001’s United Nations funded film ABC Africa was a documentary that explored the lives of Ugandan children orphaned by AIDs and, like his earlier work, examines not just death but the inextricable link between life and death, most notably the way such things overlap and intertwine in such desperate third world countries.
Kiarostami’s last two films, Certified Copy (2010), the second film in which Kiarostami cast French star Juliette Binoche and that was also nominated for the Palme d’Or at that year’s Cannes, and Like Someone in Love (2012) were his first feature films to be made outside his native Iran, and, although Like Someone In Love received mixed reviews, they both explore many of the same ideas and use much the same individualistic, solitary and minimalist film making style as his earlier work.
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