Abbas Kiarostami, Acclaimed Iranian Director, Dies at 76

The Palme d’Or winner was reportedly battling cancer


Celebrated Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has died after a battle with cancer, the Isna news service reported on Monday. He was 76.

Kiarostami won the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or, in 1997 for his film “Taste of Cherry,” and served as a jury president in festival sections for short films and directors.

Local publications in Tehran reported that Kiarostami was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer in March, and had even slipped into a coma. A medical team in Paris who treated the director denied the report at the time.

Since the early 1970s, Kiarostami worked on more than 40 films, most recently the 2012 sex-worker drama “Like Someone in Love,” which was shot in Japan. He also pursued numerous other artistic endeavors including photography, poetry and graphic design.

Just last week, the director received a belated invitation to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

As a director, Kiarostami often mixed the personal and the political in his storytelling and relied on documentary-style camera work. He also had a knack for directing scenes in cars, as some were quick to point out when word of his death circulated.

He worked twice with French actress Juliette Binoche, first on 2008’s “Shirin” and then on 2010’s portrait of a marriage “Certified Copy.” The latter film was shot in Italy — his first production outside of his native country — and earned Binoche the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

In 2002, one year after the 9/11 attacks, Kiarostami was famously not granted a visa in time to attend the New York Film Festival premiere of his film “Ten,” a delay that prompted Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki to withdraw from the event as well.

“Kiarostami created a realist-parable cinema, often about the innocent world of children,” wrote The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw in an appreciation. “This was an idiom which he may have developed to circumvent state interference and state censorship in his native Iran — and Kiarostami stayed notably loyal to his country, never exiling himself.”

Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf spoke with the same outlet shortly after learning Kiarostami had passed.

“Kiarostami gave the Iranian cinema the international credibility that it has today,” he said. “But his films were unfortunately not seen as much in Iran. He changed the world’s cinema; he freshened it and humanised it in contrast with Hollywood’s rough version.”