Winner of the Bronze Leopard at the 1989 Locarno Film Festival, this poetic tale about a young boy who must return a classmate’s schoolbook brought Kiarostami to international fame.
The first film in Kiarostami's beloved Koker trilogy opens in a rural school in northern Iran. Mohammad-Reza has completed his homework in the wrong book and if he does it again will be expelled. When Ahmad (Babak Ahmadpour) accidentally takes Mohammad's book home, he's mortified and journeys into the night to find his best friend and return the book. A film about responsibility and duty, Kiarostami's original inspiration came from his son Bahman, which he combined with a story a teacher had told him. Rather than set the film in Tehran, the director opted for rich, green spaces to complement his hero's poetic journey.
Kiarostami cast two brothers as the school friends after finding his young lead (Babak) at a shrine where a group of men were struggling to transport a large dome. The director recalled, "While the other kids were just playing, he was looking at the scene, from far away, with worried eyes. It was all in his eyes. I don't know who said it, but to find a good actor you just must look at their eyes — you can see their soul just by looking into their eyes." Imbued with sensitivity and grace, Babak's performance is one of the most memorable across Kiarostami's cinema.