Acclaimed Iranian Filmmaker Kiarostami Draws Admirers In New York
universal language of Kiarostami's films, they are very much rooted in Iranian
life and are shot inside Iran -- though most cannot be shown there.
the museum, many of Kiarostami's films are making their first U.S. appearance
before a large audience. But film aficionados here, as across much of the rest
of the world, have long followed the creative career of the 66-year old
In 1997, Kiarostami's "A Taste of Cherry" won the top prize
at the Cannes film festival, securing his place in the pantheon of modern
Among the crowds coming to the MoMA are lots of young people. And
that might seem somewhat surprising, given how strongly the filmmaker's works
contrast with many Hollywood productions.
If Hollywood films are often fast-paced and regularly make use
of computer-generated effects, Kiarostami's are slow-moving and reflective.
Viewers at one recent evening of screenings at the museum come out
speaking admiringly of qualities like "simple narrative" and "poetic eloquence"
that they find in Kiarostami's tales.
Will Washburn, a 29-year old
graduate student of comparative literature, says he has seen all of Kiarostami's
films. That is not an easy task in the United States, where most of Kiarostami's
titles are not commercially distributed and many are not subtitled in
"I think it's a shame that American audiences are so little
acquainted with these films," he says. "I think that the universality that stems
[from them] does transcend national boundaries, especially given that he's
fascinated with children and deals very eloquently with lives of children versus
the lives of adults. I do feel that there is universality in his films and [I]
wish that Americans would be more exposed to Kiarostami's films in
IMAGE: From Trees and Crows. 2006.
series of 17 C-prints
28 1/2 x 41 1/4"
Collection of the Iranian Art
Washburn thinks that even
though Kiarostami's films carry a powerful humanist message, their appeal to
mass audiences would probably be limited in the United States.
example Kiarostami's film 'Ten,' which is very experimental in nature. It's
about a woman driving a car through Tehran and she has 10 different passengers,"
Washburn says. "The entire film has essentially only two shots: a shot of the
woman's face and a shot of her passenger's face. So, I think film that
experimental in nature would have difficulty to succeed in the United
Anna Martok, who is originally from Romania, has been living in
New York since 1982. She is among the attendees of MoMA's screening of
Kiarostami's film "First Graders."
An architect by training, Martok says
she is charmed and captivated by Kiarostami's films -- she has seen them all --
because they remind her in some abstract way of architectural structures.
Particularly, she says, of buildings that cause people to reflect without
intruding too much into their lives.
"I love the life he shows in his
movies, especially because certain values are still there, ethical values as a
community, between people and certain interactions between the people and people
and the environment, which, I think, is missing very much here [in the United
States]," she says. "For me [this] is very familiar because I come from Romania
and I grew up with that. Also, he doesn't colonizes your mind: you can make up
and get whatever you want, he sort of leaves you alone."
Knowledge Of Human Condition
A curator in MoMA's department of film
and the main organizer of the Kiarostami retrospective, Jytte Jensen, says that
the retrospective was five years in the making because the organizers wanted to
do a very inclusive body of Kiarostami's work as well as show his
"The simplicity of the way the problems are sort of at first
presented, and then how they develop into a more and more layered quest for
certain truths, or aesthetic, or knowledge about the human condition, which is
not really about only the human condition in Iran, but the human condition all
over," Jensen says.
Despite the universal language if Kiarostami's films,
Jensen says the filmmaker's works are very much rooted in Iran's life. In fact,
a documentary on Uganda's AIDS orphans produced in 2000 is the only Kiarostami
film shot outside Iran.
Jensen describes American audiences as "rapt and
intrigued" by Kiarostami's films, but acknowledges that his work has gained far
more recognition in Europe.
"His work is more widely seen and is simply
better-known in Europe," she says. "I think that competition perhaps from the
commercial cinema is a little less [in Europe] although American cinema is
certainly all over Europe as well. But I just think that there maybe is a larger
art-house crowd [in Europe] who knows Mr. Kiarostami's work better."
purchased entirely new prints from the original master negatives so that even
older Kiarostami films from the 1970s are shown in their best technical quality.
There is a similar but smaller-scale retrospective of Kiarostami's works
planned for 2008 in San Francisco.
Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
... Payvand News - 3/19/07 ... --