Celebrated Iranian director, whose Taste of Cherry won Cannes top prize in 1997, remained in the country after the Islamic revolution and continued to flourish
Abbas Kiarostami, the multi-award-winning Iranian director whose 1997 film Taste of Cherry was awarded the Palme dOr at the Cannes film festival, has died aged 76.
Abbas Kiarostami, who had travelled to France for treatment, has died, reported the semi-official Isna news agency on Monday. Irans house of cinema confirmed the report, Isna said. Kiarostami had been diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer in March 2016, and had undergone a series of operations, including in Paris last month.
Speaking to the Guardian from Tehran, Oscar-winning Iranian film-maker Asghar Farhadi who had been due to fly to Paris to visit his friend later tonight said he was very sad, in total shock.
He wasnt just a film-maker, Farhadi continued, he was a modern mystic, both in his cinema and his private life. Farhadi said Kiarostamis success enabled many generations of Iranian film-makers: He definitely paved ways for others and influenced a great deal of people. Its not just the world of cinema that has lost a great man; the whole world has lost someone really great.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf echoed the sentiment, saying Irans cinema owes its global reputation to his fellow director, but that this visibility did not translate into a greater visibility for his work in his homeland.
Kiarostami gave the Iranian cinema the international credibility that it has today, he told the Guardian. But his films were unfortunately not seen as much in Iran. He changed the worlds cinema; he freshened it and humanised it in contrast with Hollywoods rough version.
He was a man of life, who enjoyed living and made films in praise of life thats why its so difficult to come to terms with his death, he said.
Kiarostamis rise to the status of one of the worlds foremost auteurs started from relatively humble beginnings. He was born in 1940 in Tehran, and originally studied painting at the University of Tehran; Kiarostami began working as a graphic designer and went on to shoot dozens of commercials for Iranian TV. In 1969 he joined Kanun (the Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults), where he ran the film department, and was able to make his own films. In 2005 Kiarostami told the Guardian: We were supposed to make films that dealt with childhood problems. At the beginning it was just a job, but it was the making of me as an artist.
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