Yesterday, legendary Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami died at the age of 76. The man behind such internationally acclaimed classics like “Close-Up,” “The Taste of Cherry,” “The Wind Will Carry Us,” and “Certified Copy,” Kiarostami’s uniquely personal cinematic style influenced countless directors who followed him, and opened the entire world to a whole generation of cinephiles. But before he shook the world with his features, he made his directorial debut in 1970 with “The Bread and Alley,” a neo-realistic short film about a little boy, a loaf of bread, and a hungry dog. Watch it below.
Before breaking into filmmaking, Kiarostami worked in advertising in the 1960’s, shooting around 150 advertisements for Iranian television, and later designing credit titles for films. In 1969, Kiarostami set up a filmmaking department at the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in Tehran, and “The Bread and Alley” was its debut production.
In a conversation with Synoptique, Kiarostami describes the experience like this, “‘The Bread and Alley’ was my first experience in cinema and I must say a very difficult one. I had to work with a very young child, a dog and an unprofessional crew, except for the cinematographer, who was nagging and complaining all the time. Well, the cinematographer in a sense was right because I did not follow the conventions of filmmaking that he had become accustomed to.”
Regarding the end sequence with the child closing the door on the dog, Kiarostami defended his choice of a long take as opposed to breaking up the scene: “I believed that if we could get both of them (the kid and the dog) in one take, that is, walking into the frame, the kid entering the home and the dog going off to sleep at the door, then it could have deeper impact. I think that was the most difficult long take that I have ever shot in my life. For that particular shot we had to wait forty days; three times we changed the dog (one of them even had rabies). Despite all the problems that we faced it finally happened or clicked.”
Watch some of Kiarostami’s films on Hulu right now.