A comprehensive retrospective of the Iranian master (1940-2016), this week-long program screens nine of Kiarostami’s features, almost all in new restorations. Highlights include the Koker Trilogy of "Where Is the Friend’s House?," "And Life Goes On" and "Through the Olive Trees" — the films that brought him international renown — his Cannes-winning "Taste of Cherry," and his first and last feature films.
RESTORATION INFORMATION: The 2K digital restoration of the Koker Trilogy was undertaken by the Criterion Collection from 4K scans of the 35mm original camera negatives. The remaining 2K and 4K restorations were undertaken by MK2 in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata from 2K or 4K scans of the best available elements.
The most acclaimed and influential of Iran’s major filmmakers, Abbas Kiarostami was born in Tehran on June 22, 1940. Raised in a middle-class household, he was interested in art and literature from an early age. During and after university, where he majored in painting and graphic design, he illustrated children’s books, designed credit sequences for films, and made numerous television commercials. In 1969, he was invited to start a filmmaking division for the government-run Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (an organization Iranians call Kanoon). His first narrative feature, The Traveler (1974), about a provincial boy scheming to reach Tehran to see a soccer match, was made under Kanoon’s auspices.
It was after Iran’s 1979 revolution that Kiarostami began his rapid ascent to international renown. Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987), about a rural boy’s effort to return a pal’s notebook, won the Bronze Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival. Close-up (1990), about the trial of a man accused of impersonating a famous filmmaker, was the director’s first film to focus on cinema itself, and to blur the lines between documentary and fiction; it has been voted the best Iranian film ever made by Iranian and international film critics. In And Life Goes On (a.k.a. Life and Nothing More . . ., 1992), he dramatized a journey he made into an earthquake’s devastation zone to discover if the child actors of Where Is the Friend’s House? had survived. Those two films and Through the Olive Trees (1994), which dramatizes the making of the later one, have been dubbed The Koker Trilogy by critics after the village where much of their action was filmed.
After And Life Goes On and Through the Olive Trees earned Kiarostami wide acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival, his next film, Taste of Cherry (1997), became the first—and so far, only—Iranian film to win the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. Telling of a man’s attempt to gain assistance in committing suicide, a taboo under Islam, the film was one of several by Kiarostami to be banned in Iran while enjoying international success. His final film of this remarkable period, The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), which concerns a camera crew on an enigmatic assignment in Kurdistan, won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
In March 2016, while he was in the midst of working on 24 Frames, Kiarostami was hospitalized and underwent two operations. He was transferred to Paris in late June of the same year, and died there on July 4. Charges have been made that his death was caused by medical malpractice by doctors in Iran. He is buried in Tehran. Posthumously completed, 24 Frames premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017.