Abbas Kiarostami is widely celebrated as one of the world’s leading contemporary filmmakers. His recognizable, personal style of filmmaking is permeated by a forward-thinking, innovative spirit that has placed his work at the vanguard of filmmaking—all the while carving a place for Iranian cinema in modern film history. Kiarostami’s oeuvre is distinguished as much by its ethical and philosophical core as by its aesthetic purity and focus on the humanity of ordinary people. His cinema is one of questions and questioning; his films are almost all initiated as a question or a quest—one, Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987), even reflects this in its title. The characters in Kiarostami’s films, most often played by non-actors, endlessly ask questions—of each other, of themselves, of the director. The director, in turn, embeds questions within the films themselves—of genre; definitions; limits (documentary? fiction?); and filmic space (what is inside/outside of cinema?). Furthermore, there is a constant questioning of the director’s own authority and of the veracity of what appears on the screen. Kiarostami’s is a cinema of journeys and discovery, in which he frequently undercuts any narrative impulse by creating ellipses, or disrupts the sound-image continuum in order to thwart expectations, often to shocking or frustrating effect. This strategy complements the director’s aim of actively engaging the viewer in a way that beautifully augments the captivating emotional effect of these masterful works.
All of Kiarostami’s works have an elusive yet immensely powerful poetic quality, one that develops as questions asked in a blunt, straightforward manner evolve into much larger ethical and philosophical inquiries. This characteristic is present from the early shorts and features of somewhat didactic origins—many screened for the first time in the U.S. in this exhibition—and in later works, wherein such lyricism subtly supports the basic humanism that illuminates all of the director’s oeuvre. All films by Abbas Kiarostami, produced in Iran, and in Farsi with English subtitles, unless otherwise noted.
This first U.S. retrospective of Abbas Kiarostami’s works on film and in digital media is complemented with an installation of Five in the Media Gallery and an accompanying exhibition at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center.
Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, and Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator, Department of Media, The Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with the Iranian Art Foundation.
Abbas Kiarostami: Image Maker is co-organized by The Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, in collaboration with the Iranian Art Foundation. We are grateful for the cooperation of Kanoon (Tehran), Farabi (Tehran), MK2 (Paris), Celluloid Films (Paris), Zeitgeist Films, New Yorker Films, and Miramax Films.