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 Abbas Kiarostami  (1940 - )

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Lived/Active: Iran, Islamic Republic of      Known for: landscape photography, filmmaking, painting, illustration, graphics

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Untitled (From The Snow White Series)
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Abbas Kiarostami is an internationally acclaimed Iranian film director, screenwriter, photographer and film producer.  An active filmmaker since 1970, Kiarostami has been involved in over forty films, including shorts and documentaries.  Kiarostami attained critical acclaim for directing the Koker Trilogy (1987-94), Taste of Cherry (1997), and The Wind Will Carry Us (1999).

Kiarostami has worked extensively as a screenwriter, film editor, art director and producer and has designed credit titles and publicity material.  He is also a poet, photographer, painter, illustrator, and graphic designer.

Kiarostami is part of a generation of filmmakers in the Iranian New Wave, a Persian cinema movement that started in the late 1960s and includes pioneering directors such as Forough Farrokhzad, Sohrab Shahid Saless, Bahram Beizai, and Parviz Kimiavi. The filmmakers share many common techniques including the use of poetic dialogue and allegorical storytelling dealing with political and philosophical issues.

Kiarostami has a reputation for using child protagonists, for documentary style narrative films, for stories that take place in rural villages, and for conversations that unfold inside cars, using stationary mounted cameras.  He is also known for his use of contemporary Iranian poetry in the dialogue, titles, and themes of his films.

Kiarostami was born in Tehran. His first artistic experience was painting, which he continued into his late teens, winning a painting competition at the age of eighteen shortly before he left home to study at the Tehran University School of Fine Arts.  There he majored in painting and graphic design, and supported his degree by working as a traffic policeman.  As a painter, designer, and illustrator, Kiarostami worked in advertising in the 1960s, designing posters and creating commercials.  Between 1962 and 1966, he shot around 150 advertisements for Iranian television. Towards the late 1960s, he began creating credit titles for films (including Gheysar by Masoud Kimiai) and illustrating children's books.

In 1969, Abbas married Parvin Amir-Gholi but later divorced her in 1982; they had two sons, Ahmad (born 1971) and Bahman (1978).  At the age of fifteen, Bahman Kiarostami became a director and cinematographer by directing a documentary Journey to the Land of the Traveller in 1993.

Kiarostami was one of the few directors who remained in Iran after the 1979 revolution, when many of his colleagues fled to the west, and he believes that it was one of the most important decisions of his career. He has stated that his permanent base in Iran and his national identity have consolidated his ability as a filmmaker:

"When you take a tree that is rooted in the ground, and transfer it from one place to another, the tree will no longer bear fruit. And if it does, the fruit will not be as good as it was in its original place. This is a rule of nature. I think if I had left my country, I would be the same as the tree".-Abbas Kiarostami

Kiarostami frequently appears wearing dark-lensed spectacles or sunglasses. He wears them for medical reasons due to a sensitivity to light.

In 2000, at the San Francisco Film Festival award ceremony, Kiarostami surprised everyone by giving away his Akira Kurosawa Prize for lifetime achievement in directing to veteran Iranian actor Behrooz Vossoughi for his contribution to Iranian Cinema.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

"You could pass by a landscape hundreds of times and then, one fine day, suddenly, be attracted and captivated by it. The landscape is still the same you passed by many times, but the light has rendered it more attractive.  It is the same thing for a face.  It happens that, looking in a mirror, one may find one's face more beautiful today than yesterday. I think that this has nothing to do with one's skin, with one having slept well the night before, or with one being happy inside. Of course, all that I have mentioned is undeniable, but what has made one's face more beautiful today than yesterday is only light; adequate light.  One must pay attention to the light."
Abbas Kiarostami

In his Snow White photographic series, Kiarostami explores solitary scenes of snowy landscapes, capturing the mountains on the shores of the Caspian.  Such works are the result of the artists long walks in search of film locations, leading him to stunningly desolate areas of Iran which, when captured as still images, evoke a sense of meditative solitude. At times, the viewer is left to contemplate a detail of the landscape such as the motif of a tree or shoot while audiences are also presented with breathtaking panoramic views, highlighting the overwhelming impact of nature.
Christie's Auction House

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