One of the most visionary figures in international cinema, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami made films that both challenged viewers' expectations of modern filmmaking and expounded a deeply humanist philosophy. Using a deceptive simplicity to explore very complex issues, Kiarostami stressed the importance of material over technique. Taking his inspiration and story ideas from the people around him and the observations of everyday life, and stressing a natural, improvisational approach from his actors, he has said, "I think that technique for technique's sake is a big lie, as it doesn't answer real feelings and real needs."
Born in Tehran on June 22, 1940, Kiarostami made his directing and screenwriting debut in 1970 with Nan va Koutcheh/The Bread and Alley. He first earned international acclaim and recognition in 1987 with Where is the Friend's Home?, the story of a child's self-imposed journey to find his friend's house so he can give him a lost notebook full of important homework. Stressing a natural approach to his material and building his film on endless repetition, Kiarostami succeeded in making a film from a child's point of view that refused to adopt the condescending, cutesy tone of most films made about children, and he earned kudos for his work.
Kiarostami next won acclaim for Through the Olive Trees, which was screened in competition at the 1994 Cannes Festival. A blend of documentary and fictional drama, it was set in a Northern Iranian town that had recently been hit by an earthquake and was the third in the director's cycle of films, following Where is the Friend's House and And Life Goes On. In keeping with the style of his previous films, Kiarostami used a straightforward approach without frills or flourishes, encouraging an interactive reaction from his audience by leaving the end of his story -- which in part revolved around a man's pursuit of a woman who keeps rejecting him -- without resolution, and therefore open to interpretation.
Kiarostami's next major project was more of a lighthearted affair: he produced the script for Jafar Panahi's The White Balloon (1995), a children's film told from the point of view of a young girl searching a marketplace to buy a goldfish in time for New Year's Eve. With A Taste of Cherry two years later, however, he was back to a more serious meditation on life, death, and all that falls in between. The film, with its lack of resolution or reasons for the decision of the protagonist to attempt suicide, invited the same kind of interaction from the audience as Through the Olive Trees. It was embraced enthusiastically by an international audience, co-winning the Cannes Festival's Palme d'Or. Further acclaim greeted Kiarostami's next effort, The Wind Will Carry Us (1999). Another unconventional meditation on everyday life rooted in a humanist philosophy, it won the Golden Lion at that year's Venice Film Festival.
In the following years Kiarostami scripted such efforts as Willow and Wind (1999) and the short A Good, Good Citizen (1999) before returning to the director's chair with ABC Africa (2001), a compelling documentary concerning the AIDS crisis in Uganda. In 2002 Kiarostami pulled double duty as the screenwriter and director of the Golden Palm nominated drama Ten. Focusing on ten conversations with women at crucial tuning points in their lives, the film proved the perfect showcase for Kiarostami's intimate style by discussing issues generally ignored in Iranian cinema. After earning a story credit for the 2002 drama The Deserted Station, Kiarostami continued his examination of the middle class with his script for Crimson Gold - the deliberate and elegiac story of an overweight man struggling to find his footing in contemporary Iran. His final film, Like Someone in Love, was released in 2012. Kiarostami died in 2016, at age 76.