Palme d’Or-winning Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, best known for films like “Taste of Cherry” (which earned him the Cannes accolade in 1997), “Close-Up” and “Certified Copy,” has died. He was 76.
The news was first reported by the Iranian Students’ New Agency (ISNA) on Monday afternoon, who wrote “Abbas Kiarostami, who had travelled to France for treatment, has died.” Other news outlets, including The Guardian, have also begun reporting the news.
Born in 1940 in Tehran, the filmmaker first studied painting at the University of Tehran; later, he worked as a graphic designer and commercial director. Kiarostami credited a job in the film department at Kanun (the Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults) for shaping him into a filmmaker.
He made his first feature, “The Report,” in 1977, just two years before the 1979 revolution that saw so many of his creative peers leave the country. Kiarostami, however, stayed and continued to create even under the constraints of the new regimen.
In the late eighties, he embarked on what would become his Koker trilogy, starting with the 1987 feature “Where Is the Friend’s Home?” followed by “Life, And Nothing More…” in 1992 and “Through the Olive Trees” in 1994. The trilogy often blended fact with fiction, narrative with documentary, and made it clear that Kiarostami’s talents were obvious and his style was not easily labeled.
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In 1997, he won the Palme d’Or for his “Taste of Cherry,” which elevated the director to a new level of recognition that he had scarcely had in his already decades-long career. After “Cherry,” Kiarostami made a number of films that continued to speak to his ease with a variety of subjects and storytelling styles, including the documentaries “ABC Africa” and “10 on Ten” and narrative offerings like “Certified Copy,” “Shirin” and “Like Someone In Love.”
Along the way, Kiarostami was honored with awards as diverse as three more Palme d’Or nominations, an Indie Spirit nomination, Locarno’s Leopard of Honor and a Grand Special Jury Prize from the Venice Film Festival for his 1999 film “The Wind Will Carry Us.” Kiarostami was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just last week.
Earlier this year, Kiarostami taught a 10-day short filmmaking workshop in Cuba, a rewarding experience that director Martin Snyder wrote was “a tremendous experience and gift” in a loving piece he penned for IndieWire.
In March of this year, Kiarostami was hospitalized with intestinal bleeding, where he reportedly fell into a coma. In April, news circulated that the director was ill with gastrointestinal cancer, a claim that was was denied by his own medical team. Just two months later, however, Kiarostami traveled from Iran to Paris to receive treatment. He died in France.
During his Cuban workshop, Kiarostami shared both practical and personal knowledge of his craft, but by its end, he had one simple message for his students: “I have nothing to teach you. The result is what was in you.”