The Long & Winding Road: The Films of Abbas Kiarostami

At the time of his death in Paris in 2016, Abbas Kiarostami was an undisputed master of contemporary cinema. Across four decades, his deeply humanist and formally inventive works drew praise from global audiences and critics but perhaps he was most revered by filmmakers themselves. Martin Scorsese attributed the “highest level of artistry in the cinema” to Kiarostami and Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa said, “When Satyajit Ray passed on, I was very depressed. But after seeing Kiarostami’s films, I thanked God for giving us just the right person to take his place.”

Born in Tehran in 1940, Kiarostami studied painting and graphic design, directed commercials, wrote poetry, and illustrated children’s books before embarking on filmmaking. His early films largely centred on the lives of children but as Kiarostami was often at pains to clarify, they were “about, but not necessarily for, children”.

The Koker trilogy (Where is the Friends House?, And Life Goes On, Through the Olive Trees) introduced Kiarostami to the world. Named for the region where they were shot, the films became increasingly meta, and this formal experimentation alongside the use of non-professional actors lent an unbridled dimension which is exhilarating on first or repeated viewings. Critically acclaimed films such as The Wind Will Carry Us and Taste of Cherry followed.

Kiarostami met the new millennium on its terms, experimenting with digital technologies and pushing the boundaries of what film direction is with his masterpiece Ten. Critic and programmer Geoff Andrew noted that Kiarostami “probably thought more deeply about cinema – its potential, limitations, and ethics – than most filmmakers”. By the end of his career, Kiarostami had introduced the world to Iranian cinema whilst changing the very boundaries of what we call a film.

Kristy Matheson
Director, Film Programs, ACMI

Presented by Sydney Film Festival in association with ACMI and NFSA.

In light of the Sydney lockdown extension announced by the NSW Government on 28 July 2021, Sydney Film Festival has made the necessary decision to postpone the 68th edition of the Festival.

SFF remains committed to delivering the program that has been curated for 2021 and is exploring all options to shift the Festival dates to later in the year. We hope to make an announcement regarding the Festival’s new dates early next week.

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