Close-Up in London: Remembering Abbas Kiarostami

Abbas Kiarostami, the world-famous Iranian film director who passed away on July 4 in Paris, is being remembered in lectures, conferences and film screenings all around the world. One such event was an in memoriam screening of his movie Close-Up – at the Close-Up Theatre in London in July.

During the event, writer Geoff Andrew, actress Mania Akbari, and film historian Ehsan Khoshbakht spoke of Mr. Kiarostami’s career and its influence on world cinema. The event was sold out almost immediately after it was first announced. Many non-Iranian fans of Mr. Kiarostami’s were also present, and along with the Iranians in attendance, they honored the late director’s distinguished personality and career.

Kiarostami (1026)Mania Akbari – the actress in Mr. Kiarostami’s movie Ten, which was shot entirely inside a car – said Mr. Kiarostami’s earlier movie Close-Up had had a very direct impact on her life. “When you watch this film,” she said, “you forget many of your own problems.”
Geoff Andrew, a British film writer who was close to Mr. Kiarostami for many years, described the director as a “special artist with a particular view of the world.”

“Kiarostami’s cinema could change your perspective on things,” he said. “Sometimes, after watching one of his films, you found yourself thinking that the world could actually be viewed in a different way.” Mr. Andrew noted that Kiarostami would unquestionably leave a permanent mark on the history of world cinema.

Mr. Khoshbakht, the critic and film historian, remembered his first encounter with Kiarostami’s cinema: “During our childhood and youth, the Center for Intellectual Development screened many films for children. One day, we saw a film called Close-Up, whose director we didn’t know.”

“Throughout the film, Kiarostami shows us that this machine [the movie camera] is an instrument for presenting the truth,” Mr. Khoshbakht added. “No one has ever been able to represent the truth through the camera lens as well as Kiarostami has – either before or after the Revolution.”

Kiarostami=2 (1026)Members of the audience paid their own personal tributes.

“Like Iranian poetry, Kiarostami’s cinema does not belong to any particular geographical area,” said one participant. “You can see that with the presence of the many non-Iranians at this event. Kiarostami will be remembered all over the world as a distinguished figure. Yet, as is often the case, he was never fully appreciated in Iran. The nature of art is not to belong to a given time or place. That’s why I am certain that Kiarostami’s films will be remembered worldwide, for years to come.”

Kiarostami=3 (1026)Another guest noted that there were “very few people who could ever take the place of Kiarostami. His cinema had a unique and inimitable style. Though he remained in Iran for years and had many problems, his name was universally recognized, and he was honored every time he set foot outside Iran’s borders. This is the tragedy of history: We do not appreciate many of our artists in their lifetime. When they pass away, we roll out a red carpet for their funeral, and show up to honor them by the tens of thousands. In any event, Kiarostami’s name will never be forgotten in the world of cinema.”

One non-Iranian spectator referred to Kiarostami’s work as “the cinema of life” and said: “Kiarostami depicted stories of everyday life with tremendous ease – a simple and accessible life. What I see in the movie Ten is geographically and socially remote to what I am. Yet Kiarostami did a great job of putting me in that situation.”

“I have come here today to honor Kiarostami,” concluded the spectator, “and hope there will be more opportunities for screenings of and discussions around his films.”

(Text and photography by Kamyar Behrang)

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