Episode #3, Part 1: The Tenacity of Youth in Abbas Kiarostami’s Early Cinema (with Godfrey Cheshire)

For this two-part episode of the podcast, we had the opportunity to interview American film critic Godfrey Cheshire about Abbas Kiarostami’s early cinema. Godfrey, who previously chaired the New York Film Critics Circle, has written for a range of publications including New York Press, The New York Times and The Village Voice. His work in the early 1990s was monumental in introducing Iranian cinema to Western audiences and popularizing directors like Kiarostami. Like us, Godfrey is a huge advocate of Kiarostami’s early output, the films he made with Kanun (The Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults) before his proliferative success in the 1990s. 

Where Is the Friend's Home?
Where Is the Friend’s Home?

A significant majority of the films Kiarostami directed between 1970 and 1989 were focused on stories of children and young adults, but these films had different thematic and formal concerns. However, one recurring element dominated Kiarostami’s stories in the early 70s and resurfaced again in his most famous work of the late 80s: a narrative trajectory following a young, male, lone hero thrown into the adult world in pursuit of a passionate goal. In the first part of this episode, we discuss this aspect of Kiarostami’s oeuvre by looking at Bread and Alley (Nan va Kucheh, 1970), Breaktime (Zang-e Tafrih, 1972), The Experience (Tajrobeh, 1973), The Traveler (Mosafer, 1974), A Wedding Suit (Lebasi Bara-ye Aroosi, 1976) and Where Is the Friend’s Home? (Khane-ye Doost Kojast?, 1987). The second part will be posted on June 5th.

Opening 0:00–0:20
Introduction 0:20–1:15
Godfrey’s Discovery of Iranian Cinema 1:15–8:25
Godfrey’s Opinion on Foreign Cinema Today 8:25–13:50
Kiarostami’s Beginnings 13:50–21:05
Bread and Alley and Breaktime 21:05–29:45
The Experience, The Traveller and A Wedding Suit 29:45–44:28
Where is the Friend’s Home? 44:28–57:32
Closing 57:32–58:18

Download an .mp3 version of this episode here or subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.

Works Cited
Alberto Elena’s The Cinema of Abbas Kiarostami (amazon)
Music: “Sonatine” by Maziar Heidari
Masoud Kimiai’s Gheisar (1969) (youtube– no English subtitles)
Films by Abbas Kiarostami
Bread and Alley (imdb, youtube)
Breaktime (imdb, youtube)
The Experience (imdb)
The Traveler (imdb, youtube)
A Wedding Suit (imdb, youtube – no English subtitles)
Where Is the Friend’s Home? (imdb, DVD at IranianMovies)


Close-up: Iranian filmmakers presiding over festival juries

Iranian director, Tahmineh Milani
Iranian director, Tahmineh Milani

The Leila Hatami “Kiss Controversy” is still continuing, with the actress apologizing before her return to Iran at the end of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. In a press release by Hatami, she stated that she was sorry to have offended the sensibilities of some people but blamed the incident on the 83-year-old president of the festival, Gilles Jacobs:

“Although I am embarrassed to give these explanations, I had no choice but to go into details for those who could not understand the inevitable situation that I was stuck in.”

Following in the footsteps of Hatami, who serves as a member of the competition jury at Cannes, and Abbas Kiarostami, who presided over the short films jury, two other Iranian filmmakers have been appointed as the head of different juries in Asia. Asghar Farhadi, the Oscar-winning director of A Separation, will act as the president of the 8th Asia Pacific Screen Awards:

The Iranian filmmaker is a three-time APSA winner: Best Screenplay and the Jury Grand Prize for About Elly in 2009, as well as Best Film for A Separation in 2011. His films have received a total of ten nominations in the award’s seven-year history.

In the city of Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, esteemed Iranian director Tahmineh Milani will preside over the jury in the inaugural edition of the city’s film festival. Milani is one of several women who came to prominence in the filmmaking arena following the Islamic revolution. Her best known films are The Hidden Half and The Fifth Reaction. Included in the Erbil Film Festival lineup are several Iranian films, including the directorial debut of A Separation‘s Peiman Moaadi:

Dance of Dust by Abolfazl Jalili, No Where No Body by Ebrahim Sheibani, Wedlock by Rouhollah Hejazi, Snow on the Pines by Peyman Moadi and The Last Winter by Salem Salavati are among the films that will represent Iranian cinema.

Close-up: News from Cannes and Like Someone in Love

Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love receives the Criterion treatment with a new digital master approved by the filmmaker, a making-of documentary, freshly translated English subtitles, and an essay by film scholar and critic Nico Baumbach:

In all of Kiarostami’s films, these games of simulation and dissimulation, likeness and play, are carried over from the protagonist to the spectator. One of the central gestures of his work is to create a relation to the film in which the spectator’s experience will mirror the character’s plight, which always means opening up a gap between the world (the social world but also the world of the film) and the viewer’s desires and revealing the subversive potential of appearance, of semblance, of being like. Kiarostami has suggested that this involves making the spectator the author of the film, which for him also means making the filmmaker something of a spectator.

A photo of Leila Hatami giving the customary French kiss-on-the-cheek to Cannes president Gilles Jacob raised the ire of Iranian authorities:

According to Iran’s interpretation of Islamic (sharia) law, in place since the 1979 revolution, a woman is not allowed to have physical contact with a man outside her family.

Jacob has attempted to prevent the furore in Iran, explaining that it was “a usual custom in the West.”

The Cannes Film Market includes several Iranian films this year:

Ebrahim Hatamikia’s latest film Che  along with several other films were screened  at the year’s market during the last few days.
Winners of the 32nd Iran’s Fajr film festival, 30th Tehran’s International Short Film Festival and Iran’s Seventh Cinema Vérité International Documentary Film Festival  attended this year’s Cannes film festival.