Abbas Kiarostami
Abbas Kiarostami

Four Seattle film organizations (SIFF, Northwest Film Forum [NWFF], Grand Illusion Cinema, and The Beacon) will host a joint retrospective of the prolific Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami between September 14 to October 6, 2019. 

Over four weekends, all four art house theatres will join forces to co-present 8 film programs spanning the great Iranian master’s career, including the Koker Trilogy (Where Is The Friend’s House?, And Life Goes On, Through the Olive Trees). 

Abbas Kiarostami Retrospective Program

Where Is the Friend’s House?
(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 1987, 83 min)

The first film in Kiarostami’s sublime, interlacing Koker Trilogy takes a simple premise—a boy searches for the home of his classmate, whose school notebook he has accidentally taken— and transforms it into a miraculous child’s-eye adventure of the everyday. As our young hero zigzags determinedly across two towns, aided (and sometimes misdirected) by those he encounters, his quest becomes both a revealing portrait of rural Iranian society in all its richness and complexity and a touching parable about the meaning of personal responsibility. Sensitive and profound, Where Is the Friend’s House? is shot through with all the beauty, tension, and wonder a single day can contain.  Description courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

The Traveler
(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 1974, 70 min)

Kiarostami’s first feature focuses on a boy in a provincial city so avid to get to Tehran to see a soccer match that he’ll lie to adults and cheat other kids. A quest film that’s also a study of youthful obsession, it’s filmed in edgy black and white with a quiet energy that matches its hero’s. The Traveler has an acridly ironic ending and one of the best performances by a child in Kiarostami’s early work. Description courtesy of Godfrey Cheshire.

Taste of Cherry
(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran & France, 1997, 99 min)

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry is an emotionally complex meditation on life and death. Middle-aged Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) drives through the hilly outskirts of Tehran, searching for someone to rescue or bury him. Along the way, he picks up three passengers, all from different walks of life, eliciting different views on mortality and individual choice.  Description courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

And Life Goes On
(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 1992, 95 min)

In the aftermath of the 1990 earthquake in Iran that left fifty thousand dead, Kiarostami returned to Koker, where his camera surveys not only devastation but also the teeming life in its wake. Blending fiction and reality into a playful, poignant road movie, And Life Goes On follows a film director who, along with his son, makes the trek to the region in hopes of finding out if the young boys who acted in Where Is the Friend’s House? are among the survivors, and discovers a resilient community pressing on in the face of tragedy. Finding beauty in the bleakest of circumstances, Kiarostami crafts a quietly majestic ode to the best of the human spirit.  Description courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

Through the Olive Trees
(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran & France, 1994, 103 min)

Kiarostami takes metanarrative gamesmanship to masterful new heights in the final installment of The Koker Trilogy. Unfolding “behind the scenes” of And Life Goes On, this film traces the complications that arise when the romantic misfortune of one of the actors—a young man who pines for the woman cast as his wife, even though, in real life, she will have nothing to do with him—creates turmoil on set and leaves the hapless director caught in the middle. An ineffably lovely, gentle human comedy steeped in the folkways of Iranian village life, Through the Olive Trees peels away layer after layer of artifice as it investigates the elusive, alchemical relationship between cinema and reality.  Description courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

Close Up
35mm print!
(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 1990, 98 min)

This fiction-documentary hybrid uses a sensational real life event—the arrest of a young man on charges that he fraudulently impersonated the well-known filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf—as the basis for a stunning, multilayered investigation into movies, identity, artistic creation, and existence, in which the real people from the case play themselves. With its universal themes and fascinating narrative knots, Close-up—one of Kiarostami’s most radical, brilliant works—has resonated with viewers around the world. Description courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

The Wind Will Carry Us
(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran & France, 1999, 118 min)

A TV crew from Tehran arrives in a remote Kurdish village to film an unusual funeral ceremony but are stymied when the old woman they expect to die clings to life. A fable-like story about professional and personal frustration, this droll drama is the most tantalizingly opaque and allusive of Kiarostami’s films, containing numerous references to poetry and several key figures (including the old woman) who are never seen.  Description courtesy of Godfrey Cheshire.

Problems With Many Solutions: Short Films of Abbas Kiarostami 
(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 1975 – 1981, 87 min)

The Colors (1976, 16 min)

Ostensibly also a film for children, this picture-book essay about the range of hues that brighten our world has the air of a delightfully playful formalistic exercise. As a narrator runs though the colors one by one, Kiarostami shows us where each appears in nature and human life (which occasions some great views of pre-revolutionary consumer culture in Iran). Of course, a little boy is featured—in one memorable sequence, he fantasizes about being a race-car driver.

Two Solutions for One Problem (1975, 6 min)

This simple moral tale seems to prefigure Where Is the Friend’s House? Two young schoolboys, Dara and Nader, are friends until Dara returns Nader’s notebook torn and Nader retaliates in kind, setting off an escalating battle that leads to destruction of property and physical injury. In the second solution, Dara realizes his offense and repairs the notebook, preserving the peace and the friendship. The film is shot mostly in close-ups, with a narrator drolly chronicling the action.

Orderly or Disorderly (1981, 17 min)

The first shot shows students descending a staircase in calm, orderly fashion, then the second details the same action as a chaotic rush. Separated by slates and Kiarostami’s voice intoning, “Sound, camera,” subsequent sequences describe the same dichotomous behavior in a schoolyard, on a school bus, and in the haphazard traffic of Tehran. Kiarostami described this as “a truly educational film,” but it plays more like a quirky philosophic aside.

Case #1, Case #2 (1979, 48 min.)

Made in the spring of 1979, not long after the shah’s overthrow, this extraordinary film serves as a Rorschach blot for people in a revolutionary mind-set. Kiarostami stages two versions of a classroom discipline situation—in one, a student tells on a troublemaker; in the other, seven students refuse to rat—and then has several adult authorities comment on the outcomes. The fascinating responses evoke conflicts between order and resistance. Descriptions courtesy of The Criterion Collection..

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