Abbas Kiarostami and the Mending of a Broken Personhood

Abbas Kiarostami helped me mend a fragmented personhood, and reconnect with a culture I thought I was no longer a part of.

I watched my first film of his, Nema-ye Nazdik (Close Up), when I was 15. Unaware of the huge impact Iranians have made on cinema, I was surprised that an Iranian filmmaker would be so renowned. The beginning of Nema-ye Nazdik follows the occupants of a taxi, with it shots introducing the streets of Tehran. As a Tehrooni, these streets were familiar. I recognized these streets and homes from a place beyond my memories. From those first few moments of the film, I became aware that these same streets and people appear in my subconscious every single night when I slept. I have been dreaming of Iran all along.

By the end of the film I was bawling. What about this work had conjured these feelings? The poetic realism? Maybe it was the beauty in Hussein Sabzian’s words. Maybe it was the iconic prolonged shot of the can rolling down the hill that especially resonated with me. Or maybe my tears and heavy heart were longing for a world that I repressed and had unknowingly missed so much.

As I’ve grown older, Iranian art such as the works of Sassan Bakhtiari, the work of the Tehran MOCA, the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad and films of Jafar Panahi have helped ground and cultivate my Iranian identity and personhood. Yet before experiencing Kiarostami’s works, I felt as though this was not an identity that belonged to me; that as a child of the diaspora, I was not allowed to be Persian. For a long time, I felt as though the diaspora had split me in half and that neither half was truly mine. I was not Canadian enough, and I was not Iranian enough. This is the reality for all immigrants and children of diaspora. It is art that can help heal–in this case Kiarostami’s art–this internal division.

His truly raw and soul-stirring films saved me and undoubtedly many others. The poetic realism in Kiarostami’s works freed me from the barricade I had built for myself, one which prevented me from connecting with my past, people and culture. The narratives conjured a nostalgia that fueled my need for a connection, and most importantly, validated my existence. He’s not just a world renowned filmmaker, but an artist that enabled my own art and identity through his masterpieces unlike any other art I had come across in that time. His vivid tales and inherently political work inspires me as an activist, as an artist, and as an Iranian. Kiarostami was able to build a bridge between myself and a world I thought was no longer mine. And I will be forever grateful for his impact.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

Entangled: More Than Meets The Eye

The Vancouver Art Gallery’s current exhibition Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting explores two concurrent approaches to understanding the...

Review: Slowdive

In 1995, Slowdive released their third album, Pygmalion. Sparse, ambient, and even less commercial than the band’s previous work, the...

The Fight Against Displacement: An Interview With Chinatown Concern Group

Founded in 2013, the Chinatown Concern Group has been working with residents, many of whom are elderly and face language...

Objects in Motion: Seeing Northwest Coast Art In A Different Light

Kaayd hllngaay skaayxan (spruce-root basket) with Wasgo (Sea Wolf) imagery, c. 1890-1920; Woven by Skidegate Haida artist and painted by...

Review: Waxahatchee’s Latest Album Has Very Little ‘Storm’ to Speak Of

Katie Crutchfield, otherwise known as Waxahatchee, is a veteran of brooding, introspective lyricism. It’s her plaintive, emotion laid bare that garnered...

Cinerama

In my art school days my tutor, Pete Bowcott (who claimed to be the lovechild of performance art pioneer Joseph...

Seu Jorge presents: The Life Aquatic – A Tribute to David Bowie

A bespectacled man walks onto the stage in an opulent theatre. Standing in front of the rapt audience, he introduces...

Her Pity Party (But Also Mine)

When we were sixteen, Lorde and I existed in worlds too small for our souls. We were restless. We wasted...