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Remembering Abbas Kiarostami

Watch a two-hour "In Conversation With" the late Iranian master filmmaker

by
Jul 5, 2016

Abbas Kiarostami was a prolific Iranian filmmaker, artist and what his contemporaries called, "a modern mystic." In the winter of 2016, The Wind Will Carry Us: The Films of Abbas Kiarostami saluted the master with a deluxe retrospective held at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Deepening our understanding of Iran, as well as time and space itself, his films embraced humanity. They welcomed stillness and contemplation, memory and understanding. TIFF programmer Dimitri Eipides, who programmed his work and became a friend, remembers Kiarostami. We welcome you to watch a two-hour "In Conversation With" the director, conducted in winter 2016 by TIFF Director & CEO Piers Handling.

24 years ago, the Toronto International Film Festival presented a special programme of 18 Iranian features, the first series of its kind anywhere outside Iran. It was a huge success, with many sold-out screenings. Our public accepted the beauty and poetry of a national cinema that was, up until then, almost totally unknown in North America. I had the good fortune to discover, program, and introduce those films — among them Abbas Kiarostami’s Life and Nothing More (1992), Close-Up (1990) and Where Is the Friend’s Home? (1987).

TIFF’s relationship with Iranian film has remained strong and rewarding since 1992, and my own affection and admiration for Abbas’ cinematic vision has never wavered. In my frequent visits to Iran I was privileged to become his friend, while his films revealed aspects of Iranian culture that made me love the country and its people even more.

Abbas’ films celebrated the everyday simplicity of life. His gift for gentle observation helped him approach Iranians’ vibrant spirit and culture in images imbued with dignity and beauty. Such themes were a permanent feature of his work, and made him not only one of the most important film directors in the world, but also one of the most accessible. Through his work, life in faraway Iran became familiar and precious. His talent for recording aspects of age-old values, values that are gradually less evident in the modern world, gave his work a deeply poetic and humanist perspective. His heroes were a vast array of peasants, young and old, who expressed a wisdom that still holds strong in rural Iran. He loved his country and its people and, through his images, brought them gently to the attention of the rest of the world. It’s a body of work that remains a milestone in world cinema.

Abbas’ pure ideals will endure along with his films — guidelines that sustain the growth and evolution of our civilization.

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