Friday, March 09, 2007

Cinema Revisited Through Abbas Kiarostami

Abbas Kiarostami was here in Princeton today* as a guest of the Visual Arts Department at Princeton University. It wasn’t the first time that I heard Kiarostami in one of his lectures and like all those other times this one was exciting; like my undergrad years back home, when Cinema and Theater Department of Art University had a filmmaker as a speaker. The only difference was that I was here in the US and Kiarostami spoke more freely than other times. Despite a bad flue his friendly tone was friendlier today and he was more eager to answer questions from the audience rather than the panelist, Ivone Marguleis. The session began by the screening of his latest short film Roads of Kiarostami and it continued by a short interview and then Q&A.

Kiarostami, tired of the cliché questions about censorship and restrictions in Iran said: “I am tired of this question, and I refuse to answer this question. Every single time someone asks me about censorship; I am answering this question for 25 years.” He continued, “just to show you that my denial to give an answer is not rooted in fear but is out of devastation, I say: Of course we have censorship and restrictions, of course censor is chopping our films up, but what is gone is gone. My films are what they are, not what has been cut out. Can’t you ask a question about what is there and not about what is not there?”

There was a question about Close Up’s ending where the sound cuts off. Kiarostami explained that it was intentional since the real conversation between Makhmalbaf and Hossein Sabzian did not fit in the rest of the movie. Here he said that Hossein was not aware of the microphone but Makhmalbaf was; this caused a problem since Makhmalbaf started to act pretentiously and made the whole dialogue in his part seem slogan-ized.”

I also asked a question about what he thinks of his film Iconology, by which I meant the new visual vocabulary that he has been creating through his image making and today these icons are seen as symbols of our era. He said that he never tried to use symbols and if he has created any, it wasn’t intentional. He also pointed out that these icons are more apparent if one sees series of his works in a row.

Another question was about his targeted audience and the effect that his films are leaving behind among the locals in the villages and whether he intends to change their mentality by his works. He answered, “No I have never tried to change mentality of the villagers. In fact my films are funny for them; they laugh all through the film even to the dramatic moments. They don’t enjoy or sympathize with my films because they have been part of it; so they do not believe it. They like movies that they can relate to and that cannot be something that they have been involved in its creation.

About choosing countryside as a location for most of his films Kiarostami said: “every no and then I get tired of Tehran and the city: it is crowded and filthy. You see! Everywhere in the world (around us) as people age they start building themselves a house in the countryside, well I go out there and build (make) my films; my films are my country house.”

There were more questions but these are what I liked the most among those. I will try to find the recorded tapes of this session and see what else is interesting. This session was a gift from me to myself for March 8th and I am glad that I canceled my office hours today, to get back to Princeton on time for this program.

A discussion between Kiarostami and Ivone Margulies
Visual Arts Dept. Princeton, March 8th 2007
I took this photo by my Cellphone.

* Since I posted this around 2 am March 9th I have to say Kiarostami was here yesterday!


bakavir said...

very interesting! I wish I could see a better picture though!thanks for your report. I really enjoyed it.

مرجان said...

سلام تمشک جان...کیارستمی رو دوست دارم و از گزارشت لذت بردم... میخواستم نوروز رو تبریک بگم. فکر نکنم وقت کنم بیام دیدنت یکی دو هفته. دوستت دارم. شاد زی

Anonymous said...

تمشک عزیز، اگر برای مخاطب ایرانی می نویسی، چرا به فارسی نمی نویسی؟