‘His films have no ready-made answers’

Published July 27, 2016
A SCREEN-GRAB from the film.—White Star
A SCREEN-GRAB from the film.—White Star

KARACHI: Film buffs gathered at T2F on Tuesday evening to remember the critically acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, who died on July 4.

Befittingly, the evening began with the screening of Kiarostami’s award-winning iconic film The Wind Will Carry Us. The title of the story is taken from one of the poems penned by the celebrated Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad. Kiarostami was known for his penchant for poetry.

The film focuses on the perennial issue of death, but without overlooking the significance of life and its vagaries. At the heart of the story is a journalist who with a few of his colleagues comes to a small village called Siah Diareh (black circle), pretending to be someone else, to record and understand the rituals pertaining to the act of bereavement with reference to the expected death of an old woman. The woman does not die, which propels the tale.

The film starts off with a long shot of a car running on a road snaking through part sandy, part verdant fields. There are no close-ups of the main characters for quite a long time. Even when the close-ups come, later in the movie, they are not meant to highlight a one-dimensional point of view.

One of the symbolic characters in the life is a child who early on in the story guides the main character to the village route. The child, as he at the fag end of the film tells the protagonist, knows all the answers that he needs to write down in exam. He symbolises life at its purest.

After the screening, Madiha Aijaz said Kiarostami had been making films for the past 50 years. She said he preferred poetry to novels and the marked feature of his films was that he liked to keep loose ends so that his audiences could interpret his stories themselves.

Another participant, Shehram Mokhtar, said he taught media studies and made sure that his students watched at least one Iranian film for aesthetic appreciation. He said Kiarostami’s films were part of the Iranian New Wave movement, which could be traced back to the 1960s. The movement, he said, came about in reaction to Raza Shah Pehalvi and his ministry of information’s instructions that filmmakers should not show things like village life or poverty. He claimed that in 1968 Darius Mehrjui’s film The Cow started it all. He said the film was Kafkasque in its approach. He said in the 1980s Kiarostami took the movement forward. He said his films could be called transnational, because mainly they were shown abroad at film festivals, and very few Iranians were familiar with his kind of work. He said after the Islamic revolution filmmakers faced more instructions.

Mr Mokhtar said Kiarostami’s films challenged the idea of black and white narratives, nurturing new viewership. He said contrary to commercial films where the audience had all the answers, his films had no ready-made responses. He said some of the images from his films stayed with the viewer and they could be interpreted in various ways.

Ms Aijaz said Kiarostami was not concerned with audiences. She said the filmmaker used to say ‘to look for being by not being’.

To back up her argument, she said, for example, in The Will Carry Us, there were 12 characters that were talked about but not shown. She said he shunned the western notion of a three-act structure. People were, she said, so used to seeing a beginning, the middle and an end in a film. But his films, she said, were unique because they did not comply with that notion.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2016



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