Abbas Kiarostami • Director
The poetry of everyday life
- The Iranian director, the subject of a wide-ranging retrospective at the Batik Film Festival of Perugia, speaks about his latest film Ten and his kind of independent cinema
Following its premiere in Cannes and being released in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom, Abbas Kiarostami’s new film, Ten is about to be released in Italy. The Batìk Film Festival in Perugia is holding a retrospective of this Iranian director’s work beginning on 21 November. Kiasrostami is one of the living legends of world cinema; an expert in portraying everyday life and giving it universal appeal despite the critics who accuse Kiarostami of making films as stylistic exercises for fans of all things exotic.
Ten is based on a narrative structure that portrays facts that are valid for every single human being on this earth. The location is a car, the protagonists, five women and a child. Ten characters alternate between ten sequences. They talk with each other about their lives. There is no real storyline that unites the parts into a unit. And faced with this exhibition of reality, the spectator tries to reconstruct and link the events. Tiny fragments in which the women talk about marriage, divorce, betrayal, religion, sex and much else besides. Ten was never screened in Iran because the censor ordered Kiarostami to cut 30 minutes. As well as talking about this film, Kiarostami addressed the issue of European cinema and its financial problems. They, he believes, are the reason for the current stagnation and what has stopped cinema developing as an art.
Your films are also co-produced by European companies. What is your relationship with Europe from the economic point of view?
“Many of my films were funded by Europeans as well as others. All the same, that is just a detail that I consider to be of secondary importance, in the sense that when I make a film, I only take care of the artistic aspects of the process. When filming is complete, I delegate others to find the money in Europe. I work in total independence. I am an independent director who follows his own personal path. I don’t even worry about how many people will actually go and see the film. I am only too well aware of the fact that my films are light years away from their European and American counterparts in terms of spectacle and action. And so I know that the audience may well find a feature like Ten less appealing. You must however remember that ten seconds of Star Wars cost as much as one of my films so I don’t try to make films that will lose money and remain free to experiment, and try to find alternative cinematographic solutions. Moreover, with Ten, I used DV. That allowed me to keep costs down and have a smaller crew. All the actors are amateurs. The point I’m making is that money and production does not influence the genesis or the execution of my films. The important thing is having the courage to experiment adn to take risks without being intimidated by the fact that only three people may go to see my film. Unfortunately, from the artistic point of view, cinema –when compared to disciplines like painting of music - has stalled. Too much depends on money. And Europe, like the US, has accepted to transform cinema into a mere monument for entertainment.”
You recently experience problems with the Mexican authorities when they failed to issue you with a visa to visit New York for the presentation of Ten. Putting the political issue to one side for a moment, does this totally unjustified hostility encourage you to distinguish between the US and Europe where you have always received a warm and positive reception?
“All I want to say from the political point of view is that my personal case is not so important if we examine the context in which it took place. Even if Bush were a huge film fan and loved my work and had known that I cannot be compared to the Fundamentalist, I would still never ever had got the visa. We are at war and there no exceptions are possible. As far as cinema is concerned, the distinction I make is between independent directors and those who are not independent. Unfortunately the American point of view prevails and even Europeans are subject to it. There are few filmmakers who can work in conditions of total freedom and it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with nationality. Moretti and Angeloupoulos are amongst the handful of directors who really make independent films but they are not the only ones. There are people in China and even in the US who do too.”
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